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Archaeologists Uncover Perfume Vials From Time Of Christ

December 11, 2008

Franciscan archaeologists digging in the biblical town of Magdala in present-day Israel say they have uncovered vials of perfume similar to those used by Mary Magdalene, the woman believed to have washed the feet of Jesus.

The group Studium Biblicum Franciscanum conducted the dig, in which scientists uncovered the perfumed ointments intact at the bottom of a dirt-filled swimming pool.  They were found alongside other hair and make-up objects, lead archaeologist Father Stefano de Luca told the religious Web site Terrasanta.net.

“If chemical analyses confirm it, these could be perfumes and creams similar to those that Mary Magdalene or the sinner cited in the Gospel used to anoint Christ’s feet,” he said.

Magdala was the name of an ancient town near the Sea of Galilee now known as the northern Israeli town of Migdal.  A Palestinian Arab village occupied the site until the 1948 war during Israel’s establishment.

The Bible’s New Testament describes Mary Magdalene as a steadfast disciple of Christ, from whom seven demons were cast out.  She is thought by many to be the sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet.

“The discovery of the ointments in Magdala at any rate is of great importance. Even if Mary Magdalene was not the woman who washed Christ’s feet, we have in our hands ‘cosmetic products’ from Christ’s time,” said De Luca.

“It’s very likely that the woman who anointed Christ’s feet used these ointments, or products that were similar in composition and quality,” De Luca said.

Studium Biblicum Franciscanum supports biblical studies research with a focus on archaeological excavation of places associated with the New Testament and early Christianity in the Middle East.

Image Courtesy G. Caffulli

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