Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ancient Christian Prayer Box Discovered in Jerusalem Parking Lot.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the recent discovery of a Byzantine era prayer box found in the City of David excavations. The box is about the size of a matchbox, is made of bone and has two figures carved on it. Here is part of the IAA report.

The box is 2.2 cm long by 1.6 cm wide and is made of a bone taken from a large animal (steer, camel or horse). The box slides open. When doing so it includes two flat parts, each of which bears a colored drawing. According to Yana Tchekhanovets, director of the excavation together with Dr. Doron Ben-Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The use of icons (cultic objects portraying sacred figures) for prayer outside the church is a phenomenon known in the Christian world already in the fifth century CE. However, the painted holy relics that date to the Byzantine period which were discovered here, in the Holy Land, are extremely rare, thus making this an exceptionally important discovery. Folding icons for personal use are known to this day in modern Christendom, especially in the East. 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”.

The image of a bearded man against a gold background is portrayed in the drawing at the bottom of the box. His face was only partially preserved, although it is possible to discern its general shape, the dark shade of his hair and his left eye. The details of his garment can 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 preservation of the drawing on the inside of the box’s lid was even more fragmentary. 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 face of the figure was not preserved; however, we can discern the lines of hair (or a head scarf?), chin, neck and part of the left shoulder.

You can read the rest of the report here and an article in Ha Aretz Here.

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting! Although according to the dimensions on the second website you cite, it is much smaller than a matchbox (in the image there it appears to be just slightly bigger than a finger tip).