The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Monday announced the discovery of a 1,500-year-old Christian devotion artifact made of bone, with two paintings believed to portray the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
The early Byzantine period box, measuring two centimeters by 1. 5 centimeters, "is important because we only know of such devotion icons that believers wore on them, from the Byzantine sources, and now we found it for the first time," IAA archaeologist Yana Tchekhanovets told Xinhua.
"The cross is carved on the back side of lid and there are two images painted on a golden background," Tchekhanovets said, adding that "though one is hardly preserved, it has been identified as a woman wearing blue, and the other portrait is a man with white clothes and dark beard on the back side. We believe they depict Mary and Jesus, or saints."
The item was dug up during an excavation of a parking lot in the City of David, close to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.
"It comes from a very clear archaeological context, so there's no doubt of the time of the artifact, it belongs to the 5th or 6th century AD," Tchekhanovets said.
The minuscule box may have been dropped by a passerby, since the street they are digging was a main artery, connecting the center of the Old City to the Silwan Pool, Tchekhanovets believes.
"We found it on the Byzantine road we have been digging for four and a half years, and it must have belonged to a pilgrim or a resident of the city," she said.