Italian researchers may have discovered the oldest nativity scene ever found, predating Christian nativity art by about three millennia, according to the travel and exploration website Seeker.
The rock painting depicts a newborn between parents, a star in the east, and two animals. It was discovered on the ceiling of a small cavity in the Egyptian Sahara desert, Seeker reported. Researchers believe it dates to the Neolithic or Stone Age.
“It’s a very evocative scene which indeed resembles the Christmas nativity. But it predates it by some 3,000 years,” geologist Marco Morelli, director of the Museum of Planetary Sciences in Prato, Italy, told Seeker. The site reports that Morelli and his team discovered the rock art in 2005, but only now are revealing their findings under the title “Cave of the Parents.”
The rock painting, done in a reddish-brown ochre, has several notable features: a headless lion, a baboon or monkey, a star set in the east, and a baby who is slightly raised to the sky, a position that could have signified birth or pregnancy, Seeker reported.
The rock painting raises questions about the meaning ascribed to nativity scenes long before the birth of Christ.
“No doubt it’s an intriguing drawing,” Morelli said. “We didn’t find similar scenes until the early Christian age.”