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An ancient ring from 1700 years ago with a green gemstone depicting the 'Good Shepherd'
The 'Good Shepherd' is one of the oldest Christian symbolsImage: Debbie Hill/UPI/newscom/picture alliance

Israeli archaeologists find Christian 'Good Shepherd' ring

December 23, 2021

The 'Good Shepherd' is one of the earliest Christian symbols. The ring was found in a Roman shipwreck along with silver coins and other artifacts.


The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) displayed a Roman-era golden ring on Wednesday among other artifacts recovered from a Roman-era shipwreck.

The gold ring with its green gemstone had the figure of the "Good Shepherd" engraved in it, showing the form of a young shepherd boy carrying a sheep across his shoulders. The motif is thought to be an early reference to Jesus that circulated in the Roman era before organized Christianity began to emerge.

IAA worker looks over coins with a light in his hand
Recovered from the shipwrecks were hundreds of Roman silver and bronze coinsImage: Debbie Hill/UPI/newscom/picture alliance

What else was found in the shipwrecks?

Recovered from the shipwrecks were hundreds of Roman silver and bronze coins, as well as over 500 silver coins from the period of the medieval Mamluk Sultanate.

The Roman Empire and the Mamluk Sultanate ruled over large swaths of the eastern Mediterranean for several centuries.

The shipwrecks were dated to 1,700 and 600 years ago, archaeologists said.

The wrecks were found near the town of Caesarea, which was the local capital of the Roman Empire in the third city and a key hub for Roman activity, said Helena Sokolov of the IAA.

Besides the coins, archaeologists also discovered figurines, bells, ceramics and metal artifacts that once belonged to ships, including nails and a shattered iron anchor.

What did the IAA say about the discoveries?

Robert Kool, head of the IAA’s coin department, called the item "exceptional".

On the gemstone is engraved an image of the 'Good Shepherd,' which is really one of the earliest symbols of Christianity," Kool said.

Jacob Sharvit, head of the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit, said that the Roman ship is believed to have originally hailed from Italy. He said it remained unclear whether any remnants of the wooden ships remained intact beneath the sands.

The IAA is an Israeli government authority tasked with preserving antiquities as well as regulating excavation and promoting research.

sdi/msh (AFP, AP)

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