Ancient ram statue discovered may have represented Jesus Christ

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Archaeologists found an ancient marble ram in Caesarea Harbor National Park, believed to represent Jesus Christ in Ancient Christianity. Vered Sarig/The Caesarea Development Corporation

A hand-carved marble statue of a ram discovered on Dec. 24 had experts guessing whether it was carved by Byzantine artisans or the Romans and then redesigned by the Byzantine church. Archaeologists believe that the ancient marble statue probably represented Jesus Christ for Christians at a Byzantine church in Israel.

“We found a marble statue of a ram that quite possibly dates back to the Roman era,” Peter Gendelman, archaeologist at Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), told Tazpit Press Service. “It’s a very interesting discovery and its level and status of preservation are quite rare.”

Found in Caesarea Harbor National Park, the statue is believed to be 1,500 years old, and it might have been used as an ornament during the sixth or seventh century by the Byzantine church in Caesarea. Moreover, the statue is a common image in Christian art, often depicted on the shoulders of the “Good Shepherd” or Jesus. The animal is often situated to the left or right of Christ.

Directors of the excavation claimed that Jesus was not portrayed as a person in ancient Christianity. Instead, symbols were used, and one of them was the ram. Archaeologists noted that ram was also often used in Roman art and Egyptian mythology to represent the god Amun.

These findings may also support the theory that Caesarea was one of the centres of Christianity in the Holy Land. In fact, Cornelius, the Roman officer who converted to Christianity, was also from Caesarea. Cornelius is known to Christians as the first gentile to convert to Christianity.

Interestingly, the discovery was made on Christmas Eve. Gendelman remarked that this coincidence shows how Caesarea never ceases to surprise. BBC reports that a dark-skinned, coarse, vacant-eyed, curly-haired man is the closest possible likeness of the historical Jesus, based on the latest forensic techniques.

This is completely different from the popular images of Jesus which show a fair-skinned and blue-eyed man, as widely seen in sacred Christian art. However, a 2001 Discovery Channel/BBC co-production reconstructed Christ’s face with a 2,000-year-old Jewish skull, ancient documents, advanced software and forensic techniques, showing Jesus as a man of his time and place.