Historians are trying to determine whether a portrait found buried within a cave in a remote village in Jordan is authentic and if it is the first-ever discovered portrait of Jesus.
According to a report on Monday in Britain’s The Daily Mail, the portrait was found on a lead booklet, slightly smaller than a credit card. It was part of an astonishing hoard of 70 books said to be found on the site, each with between five and 15 cast lead pages bound by lead rings.
The discoveries were supposedly made between 2005 and 2007, after a flash flood exposed two nooks inside the cave, containing the booklets, metal plates and scrolls.
The speculation is that the picture, which shows a man wearing a crown of thorns, was created in Jesus’ lifetime by those who knew him. If true, it would be the first ever portrait of Jesus. However, a crown of thorns is not limited only to the story of Jesus.
The booklet, say finders, has been buried for 2,000 years and the features are barely distinct as that of a human face, reported The Daily Mail.
Some historians believe the book collection was made by followers of Jesus in the decades immediately after his crucifixion. The most convincing evidence that the books are Christian might be that one plate appears to show a map of Jerusalem with crosses outside the city walls, if that symbol was in use at the time.
The director of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, told The Daily Mail that he believes the booklets were made by Jesus’ followers shortly after his death.
“They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than the Dead Sea Scrolls,” said al-Saad. “The initial information is very encouraging and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery – maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”
According to the report, the booklets are currently in the hands of a Bedouin trucker named Hassan Saida who lives in the village of Shibli-Umm Al-Ghanam, a Bedouin village in northern Israel. He has refused to sell them, claiming the books have been in his family since they were found by his great-grandfather. Two samples, however, have been sent to England and Switzerland for authenticity testing.
Some claims have been made that Saida’s Bedouin business partner bought the books from a villager in Jordan five years ago, and took them to Saida in Israel. The Jordanian government said that it would make efforts at every level to return them to Jordan.