Roman-era ‘Good Shepherd’ ring found off Israel in ancient shipwreck

Roman-era gold ring set with a green gemstone carved with the figure of a shepherd boy carrying a sheep on his shoulders, which was found in the Mediterranean Sea off Israel (22 December 2021)
The gold ring was described by the Israel Antiquities Authority as an “exquisite and rare find”

A Roman-era gold ring bearing an image used by early Christians to symbolize Jesus has been found by archaeologists off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the ring was set with a green gemstone carved with the figure of a shepherd boy carrying a sheep on his shoulders.

In the Bible, Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd”.

The ring was among a number of artefacts discovered in two shipwrecks near the ancient port of Caesarea.

Marine archaeologist finds gold ring in Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel
The ships’ cargoes and the remains of their wrecked hulls were found scattered in shallow water

The other treasures include hundreds of silver and bronze Roman coins from the mid-3rd Century and a large hoard of silver coins from the early 14th Century, during the Mamluk period.

Ancient Roman coins found in an shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea are displayed at the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem (22 December 2021)
The marine treasure includes hundreds of silver and bronze Roman coins from the 3rd Century

Archaeologists also found Roman-era figurines in the form of an eagle and a theatre performer in a comic mask; bronze bells intended to ward off evil spirits; and a ring set with a red gemstone carved with a lyre.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the remains of the ships’ hulls and their cargoes were found scattered on the sea floor at a depth of about 4m (13ft).

A Roman-era figurine of a theatre performer in a comic mask and other artefacts
A figurine of a Roman pantomimus, or theatre performer, in a comic mask was also found

“The ships were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by a storm,” said Jacob Sharvit of the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit.

Caesarea was home to one of the first Christian communities and, according to the New Testament, was where the apostle Peter baptised the Roman centurion Cornelius.

“This was the first instance of a non-Jew being accepted into the Christian community,” Mr Sharvit said. “From here, the Christian religion began to be disseminated across the world.”

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