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IAA archaeologist Yana Tchekhanovetz believes this 700-year-old ring, which depicts a bald man and a bishop’s crook, bears the image of St. Nicholas. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.
While working in a garden in the Jezreel Valley community of Moshav Yogev in Israel, landscaper Dekel Ben-Shitrit uncovered an exceptional piece of jewelry in the dirt: an ancient ring engraved with the image of a figure. After posting a picture of the ring on Facebook, he was advised by his neighbor, Dr. Dror Ben-Yosef, the director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s Lower Galilee Education Center, to bring the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
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Dr. Yana Tchekhanovetz, an IAA archaeologist who is an expert on the Byzantine period, examined the ring.
“This special ring is amazingly well preserved and will contribute a great deal to science,” Tchekhanovetz explained in an IAA press release. “On the ring is the image of a bald man with a staff next to him. On preliminary examination, this seems to be St. Nicholas holding a bishop’s crook—his hallmark.”
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So what was the St. Nicholas ring doing in the Jezreel Valley? Tchekhanovetz believes the ring, which dates to the 12th–15th centuries C.E., might have belonged to a Christian pilgrim traveling through the Holy Land. In popular imagination, St. Nicholas often conjures an image of a jolly old man with a white beard who climbs down chimneys on Christmas Eve—Santa Claus. In...
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