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Byzantine statue of a ram unearthed in Caesarea

An impressive marble statue of a ram was exposed near an ancient church that dates to the Byzantine period. The discovery was made last Thursday morning in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Caesarea Harbour National Park, at the initiative of the Caesarea Development Corporation.

Byzantine statue of a ram unearthed in Caesarea
The marble statue discovered in Caesarea [Credit: Vered Sarig, 
The Caesarea Development]
In Christian art the ram is often depicted carried on the shoulders of the “Good Shepherd” (that is, Jesus, who is portrayed as the shepherd tending his flock), and sometimes the ram is situated to the left or right of Jesus.

Byzantine statue of a ram unearthed in Caesarea
It is thought the ram may be a religious symbol representing Jesus 
[Credit: Vered Sarig, The Caesarea Development]
In Christianity the ram, like the lamb, represents the faithful, or Jesus himself, whose anguish and death were meant according to Christian belief to atone for original sin (the origin of the image is in John 29:1). The ram appeared alongside the Greek gods Hermes and Roman Mercury, and it was a representation of the god Amun in Egyptian mythology.

Byzantine statue of a ram unearthed in Caesarea
The ancient marble ram shown in Caesarea Harbour National Park 
along Israel's Mediterranean coast [Credit: Vered Sarig, 
The Caesarea Development]
According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Mohammad Hater, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "Caesarea never ceases to surprise as evidenced by this amazing statue that was discovered today. In ancient Christianity Jesus was not portrayed as a person. Instead, symbols were used, one of which was the ram. It may or may not be a coincidence, but the statue was uncovered on Christmas Eve. The statue that we found might have been part of the decoration of a Byzantine church from the sixth–seventh centuries CE at Caesarea. By the same token it could also be earlier, from the Roman period, and was incorporated in secondary use in the church structure”.

Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs [December 27, 2015]

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