By Zainab Khudair
Municipal workers laying down pipes in the city of Tekrit found 30 archaeological pieces of astounding beauty, a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said.
Abdulzahra al-Talaqani said the artifacts which he described as â€œunique and pricelessâ€
were uncovered from a grave the workers came across as they were extending pipes for a new sewage system.
The Antiquities Department representative in the city Saood al-Azzawi said the artifacts include silver rings and bracelets bearing engravings of the cross and frankincense burners and perfume vessels made of precious stones and metal.
Tekrit, 160 kilometers north of Baghdad, was a major Iraqi Christian center of the Syriac Orthodox church. It was predominantly populated by Christians until late 12th century.
Remains of an ancient church, believed to be the oldest in the Middle East, are part of scores of Christian sites in the city which has now all but lost its Christian character or population.
Azzawi said the discovery would shed more light on the Christian period in Tekrit and hoped it would spur scientists to excavate other ancient Christian sites.
He said there were more than 800 archaeologically significant sites in the Province of Salahuddin of which Tekrit is the capital.
The province has been named Salahuddin because Tekrit is the birthplace of the Muslim conqueror Saladin who seized Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the 12th century.