Israeli archeologists have found a tiny but “extremely rare” Christian relic believed to be used for personal prayer during the sixth century in excavations in Jerusalem.
It’s a miniature box – 2.2 cm long by 1.6 cm wide, made of the bone of a steer, camel or horse – decorated with a cross, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.
Found in excavations in the Giv’ati car park in the City of David, the box was likely used as a personal prayer relic by a believer, archeologists said.
“The painted holy relics that date to the Byzantine period [sixth-seventh centuries CE] which were discovered here, in the Holy Land, are extremely rare, thus making this an exceptionally important discovery,” Yana Tchekhanovets, a director of the excavation, said.
Folding icons for personal use are known to this day in modern Christendom, especially in the East, she said.
In recent years the excavations in the Giv’ati car park have uncovered remains of the Byzantine settlement.
“The box was discovered intact, apart from a small crack, and the fact that it was hermetically sealed ensured the preservation of the drawings on the relic’s inner panels,” Tchekhanovets added.
The bottom of the box carries the drawing of a bearded man against a gold background. The man’s face was only partially preserved, although it is possible to discern its general shape, the dark shade of his hair and his left eye, archeologists said. The details of his garment can also be identified, which include a white cloak with a pink spot located on its right shoulder – almost certainly a white tunic and purple stripes. The man could be a Christian saint or possibly Jesus Christ.
There is also a drawing on the inside of the box’s lid, though even more fragmentary. However, from the remaining details it is possible to reconstruct the shape of a smaller figure, probably a female, draped in a blue garment, against a gold background. The woman is possibly Jesus’ mother, Mary.