Carved in Stone
Israel is a country rich with history dating back millennia. Archaeological finds in Israel are recovered from digging sites and also from marine excavations. Whatever is uncovered becomes one more link to help fill in the story of ancient times in this holy region.
Recently marine archaeologists there investigated a couple of shipwrecks just off the coast of the ancient seaside town of Caesarea. Located some 35 miles north of modern day Tel Aviv, this port town was an important hub of ancient trade, especially during the Roman Empire where its inhabitants were of various ethnicities and religions.
The recent haul included an interesting treasure trove of 3rd century valuables including Roman coins, pottery, figurines, bells to ward off evil and a remarkable gold ring from the era.
The ancient gold ring features an intaglio carving of a shepherd boy with a ram or sheep slung over his shoulders. The carved symbol, the Good Shepherd was a potent emblem for early Christians during this era as their numbers were rapidly flourishing.
Distinguishing Types of Carvings
The green stone on the ring carved in the likeness of a shepherd is one way in which rings have been carved for eons. When a flat surface of a stone is carved into, so the design is lower than the flat surface of the stone, we call it intaglio.
Intaglio carving cuts into the stone
When the reverse method is used, wherein a stone is carved away resulting in a raised design with a dimensional effect, we call those cameos. Both types of carvings have roots in ancient civilizations.
High relief in a cameo carving
When a stone carved with an intaglio is placed in a ring, it can also serve as a seal of the wearer--a sort of certified 'signature' of the person. Placing warm sealing wax on a parchment or other surface, the wearer carefully presses their (intaglio) stone into the wax. As it hardens, a raised cameo-like seal is created. The intaglio design is unique to the wearer, and becomes their official 'seal of approval'.
Sorting out Symbolism
The recently found ring was of a rather small size, suggesting it was a woman's ring. While the image of Jesus tending a flock as the Good Shepherd was a common reference in early Christianity, it was unusual to see a ring featuring this symbolism from that era.
Among the fascinating hoard of other discoveries in this trove was a red gemstone (probably once set in a ring) with a carving of a lyre. In ancient times, the harp, or David's Harp, could have been an early reference to the ancient King David.
According to Israel Antiquities Authority, Eli Eskozido,"Israel's coasts are rich in sites and finds that are immensely important national and international cultural heritage assets." 💎