7 New Archaeological Discoveries of Ancient Christianity


Holy Land discoveries have not come to an end. In fact, each year as more modern scientific advancements are made, more archaeological findings are unearthed and/or better understood, bringing more clarity and context to ancient Christianity.

1. The Oldest Manuscript of the Gospel of Saint Mark

While the fragment was found in 1903, this past year the Egypt Exploration Society confirmed the ancient age of this manuscript—assigned to the late second to early third century AD. This makes it the oldest known manuscript of the Gospel of Mark, trailing behind the Gospel of John. Made of Greek papyrus, the fragment was discovered in Middle Egypt in a region known as Oxyrhynchus. The fragment contains portions of passages from the Gospel of Mark.

View the information and the images of the Mark manuscript here

2. A City from the Era of King David

The discovery of an ancient city in Tel ‘Eton points to evidence of an existence of civilization during the time of Biblical King David. Known as Eglon, the site was identified through burrowing mole rats, about 30 miles outside of Jerusalem, located in the Judean foothills to the east of the Hebron. Archaeologists used radiocarbon methods to date the city back to the 10th century BC. Eglon is mentioned in the book of Joshua on numerous occasions.

3. The City Entrance Gate of Bethsaida

Found in the Golan Heights, Bethsaida was originally known as the city of Zer in the Old Testament. Twenty archeologists working with the Hebrew Union College made the discovery of the ancient gate. Later known as Bethsaida in the New Testament, the region is mentioned on numerous occasions as a key location where Jesus conducted several miracles including the feeding of the 5,000 and the healing of the blind man. The gate is from both the First and Second Temple periods.

4. The Baptismal Pool where St. Philip Baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts

The mysterious 1,500-year-old pool and fountain were excavated at the site of an ancient church outside of Jerusalem, in Ein Hanniya Park. Today partially owned by the local Armenian community, the system of pools were built during the Byzantine era, dating back to between the 4th and 6th centuries. According to Jerusalem district archaeologist Dr. Baruch, this is a region referred to in the book of Acts. “We believe that some early Christian commentators identified Ein Hanniya as the site where the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, as described in Acts 8:26–40.”

5. Ark of the Covenant Possibly Located

Archeologists believe St. Mary’s of Zion Church in Ethiopia may indeed be the location where the mysterious Ark of the Covenant and Ten Commandments tablets lay. “There is biblical and extra-biblical evidence that the Ark made its way to Ethiopia after ancient Israel was overtaken by outside forces,” Bob Cornuke noted, President of the Biblical Archeology Search and Exploration Institute. The ancient relics are protected by the “Guardian of the Ark”–an appointed local Ethiopian believer who is the only one permitted to see the Biblical remains. While Moses married an Ethiopian woman, rich Judeo-Christian history remains connected to the land of Ethiopia. However, with restricted access to the church, further investigation of this mysterious and sacredly held site, remains.

6. Ancient Ring and its Inscription Linked to Pontius Pilate

With the engraving “Of Pilate” embedded on it, the 2,000-year-old ring was found at an excavation near Bethlehem in Herodium 50 years ago. However only recently has the Greek inscription been detected through the use of advanced camera techniques. It is believed to have belonged to Pontius Pilate, as the dates align with the era of Jesus, and the copper stamping ring itself bearing his name. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea, known for his role in the crucifixion of Jesus. He notably asked the question “What is truth?” in John18:38. The ring was originally found by Hebrew University Professor Gideon Forster.

 7. 1,500-Year-Old Painting of Jesus’ Baptism

In the Negev Desert of Southern Israel, an ancient Nabatean town today known as Shivta houses several Byzantine churches where the painting was discovered. It is now recognized as the oldest known depiction of Jesus’ baptism in Israel. The faint image shows a young Jesus with short hair being baptized. According to the Antiquity Journal, the finding is the only known “in-situ” baptism painting in its original location dating back to the pre-iconoclastic Holy Land. An iconography portrait painted in the stones of the northern church, the image of Jesus is deeply eroded, yet contains detailed features including curly hair, an elongated nose and large eyes. Art Historian Dr. Emma Maayan-Fana of the University of Haifa discovered the portrait while visiting the church. She believes contemporary preservation techniques will help reveal even more of the image.