A team of Franciscan archaeologists digging in the biblical town of Magdala in what is now Israel
say they have unearthed vials of perfume similar to those that may have been used by the woman said to have washed Jesus' feet.
The perfumed ointments were found intact at the bottom of a mud-filled swimming pool, alongside hair and make-up objects, the director of the dig conducted by the group Studium Biblicum Franciscanum told the Terrasanta.net religious website.
"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," Father Stefano de Luca, the lead archaeologist, told the website.
Mary Magdalene is cited in the New Testament as a steadfast disciple of Christ from whom seven demons were cast out. She is often considered 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," De Luca said.
Magdala was the name of an ancient town near the shores of the Sea of Galilee in what is now northern Israel. A Palestinian Arab village stood near the site until the war at Israel's establishment in 1948, and an Israeli town called Migdal now occupies the area.
"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 research in biblical studies but focuses on archaeological excavation of sites linked to the New Testament and early Christianity in the Middle East.