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Face depicting Jesus Christ discovered at ancient church in Negev Desert

Although the painting is incomplete, University of Haifa archeologists were able to examine the facial outline.

The face of Christ with proposed reconstruction. Credit: Screenshot.
The face of Christ with proposed reconstruction. Credit: Screenshot.

A previously unknown 1,500-year-old depiction of Jesus Christ’s face has been discovered at a Byzantine church in the Negev Desert.

Although the painting is incomplete, University of Haifa archeologists were able to examine the facial outline. Their research was recently published in the journal Antiquity. It is believed to be from the sixth century C.E., and portrays Jesus as a short-haired lad.

The leading archeologists were Emma Maayan-Fanar, Ravit Linn, Yotam Tepper and Guy Bar-Oz.

“Christ’s face in this painting is an important discovery in itself,” they said in their paper. “It belongs to the iconographic scheme of a short-haired Christ, which was especially widespread in Egypt and Syro-Palestine, but gone from later Byzantine art.”

“Thus far, it is the only in situ baptism-of-Christ scene to date confidently to the pre-iconoclastic Holy Land,” they added. “Therefore, it can illuminate Byzantine Shivta’s Christian community and Early Christian art across the region.”

In another project last month, archeologists discovered a pillar from the Second Temple period bearing the earliest stone inscription of the full modern Hebrew spelling of “Jerusalem.”

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