A newly-discovered ring could portray the earliest image of Jesus Christ.
The octagonal gold jewellery dates to the third century and is inlaid with a green gemstone that has an image of Christ as the ‘good shepherd’ carved into it.
Almost two thousand years ago, a devastating storm off the coast of Caesarea, in modern-day Israel, caused a shipwreck.
Now, archeologists have recovered treasures from that ship’s hull, including the ring and other fascinating artefacts.
The ring is inscribed with an image of a boy holding a sheep on its shoulders.
This calls to mind the words Jesus was said to have spoken: “I am the good shepherd… the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Because of this Christians often depicted Jesus in this way.
Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) also discovered third-century Roman coins, bells to ward off evil spirits, a bronze eagle figurine, and a Roman pantomimus figurine in a comic mask.
Close to the third century sunken ship the team found another more recent wreck, which is thought to have sunk around 600 years ago.
In this ship they found 560 Mamluk-era coins from the 14th century.
The IAA wrote on Facebook: “An archeological survey of the ancient authorities in the Caesarea area revealed a spectacular treasure of two ancient tropic ships. The discoveries tell the story of two ships that sank during different periods, probably when they tried to anchor or find shelter from storms.”
Commenting on the ring the authority wrote: “This image, of the ‘Good Shepherd’, is known in ancient Christian art as a symbol of salvation.
“It is a parable of Jesus as the merciful shepherd of mankind, or as the one who has shown the protection of man or the testimony of his believers.”
Archaeologists believe that the ring’s owner was one of the first Christians.
And since the ring is small, it may have belonged to a woman.
Helena Sokolov, a curator at the IAA, said: “This was a period when Christianity was just in its beginning, but definitely growing and developing, especially in mixed cities like Caesarea.”
At the time of the sinking Caesarea was home to one of the first Christian communities.
The city is even mentioned in the Bible as the site of the baptism of the Roman centurion Cornelius by the apostle Peter.
Jacob Sharvit, of the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit, said: “This was the first instance of a non-Jew being accepted into the Christian community.
“From here, the Christian religion began to be disseminated across the world.”