An impressive marble statue of a ram was discovered this morning near an ancient Byzantine church at the Caesarea Harbor National Park in an archaeological excavation administered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and initiated by the Caesarea Development Corporation and the Rothschild Foundation.
“We found a marble statue of a ram that quite possibly dates back to the Roman era,” said IAA archaeologist, Dr. Peter Gendelman to Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It’s a very interesting discovery and its level and status of preservation are quite rare.”
Dr. Gendelman suggested that the ram statue’s age is unclear. One theory suggests that the statue only dates back approximately 1,500 years when it was used in a Byzantine church. “It is possible that the statue served as a decoration in a 6th or 7th century Byzantine church in Caesarea,” said Dr. Gendelman in a statement with co-director of the excavation, Mohammad Khater.
“We know that Christianity adopted the lamb as a symbol of Jesus so it could very well be associated with the Christian community,” Gendelman elaborated to TPS.
Further circumstantial evidence that may lend credence to the theory is that “Caesarea was one of the centers of Christianity in the Holy Land,” Gendelman noted to TPS. “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.
Dr. Gendelman also suggested the possibility that the ram statue had been used even before the Byzantine era. “It is possibly even more ancient, dating to the Roman period, incorporated in church as a secondary use,” stated Gendelman and Khater.
The ram was often used in Roman art as a representative symbol of the god Amun from Egyptian mythology.
“We know, for example, that the ram was a symbol of several deities from nearby ancient Egypt,” explained Gendelman to TPS.
Dr. Gendelman made special note of the ironic discovery of the statue on Christmas eve. “Coincidentally or not, the statue was discovered exactly on Christmas eve,” Gendelman and Khater remarked. “Caesarea never ceases to surprise.”