Published On: Mon, Jun 14th, 2021

Ancient “Magical Amulet” Discovered in Israel

It was used to ward off evil.

Photo Credit Dafna Gazit Israel Antiquities Authority

An ancient amulet which dates back to the Byzantine period, some 1,500 years ago, and which was used to ward off evil, was discovered in Israel. The amulet bears the name of God and was actually discovered about 40 years ago near an ancient Jewish settlement in the north of Israel called Arbel. But the find has only just recently been handed over to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Greek letters I A W Θ are inscribed on the Amulet. These represent the Jewish Divine Name (Yahweh, IHYH). “The fact that the amulet was found on the site of a Jewish settlement that contained a synagogue in the fifth-sixth centuries CE suggests that Jews also carried amulets at the time,” says the find’s researcher archaeologist Dr. Eitan Klein of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Made of bronze, the amulet’s front site bears the figure of a rider on a galloping horse. The rider’s head is encircled with a halo, and he thrusts a spear down toward a female figure lying on her back. Engraved in a semicircle above the rider is a Greek inscription that reads, “The One God who Conquers Evil.”

Photo Credit Dafna Gazit Israel Antiquities Authority

According to Dr. Eitan Klein, Deputy Director of the Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit, “the amulet is part of a group of fifth–sixth-century CE amulets from the Levant that were probably produced in the Galilee and Lebanon. This group of amulets is sometimes called ‘Solomon’s Seal,’ and the rider is depicted overcoming the evil spirit – in this case, a female identified with the mythological figure Gello/Gyllou, who threatens women and children and is associated with the evil eye. The eye on the reverse is identifiable as the evil eye, being attacked and vanquished by various means. Therefore, the amulet was probably used to guard against the evil eye, possibly to protect women and children.”

The IAA explains that during the Byzantine period, Arbel was a Jewish settlement, and it is often mentioned in historical sources from the Talmudic period. It had a linen-production industry, and many sages visited and taught there. “Although scholars generally identify the wearers of such amulets as Christians or Gnostics, the fact that the amulet was found within a Jewish settlement containing a synagogue in the fifth-sixth centuries CE may indicate that even Jews of the period wore amulets of this type for protection against the evil eye and demons,” says Klein. “I wish to thank the amulet’s donor for demonstrating good citizenship, and I appeal to anyone who has previously found ancient artifacts to hand them over to the National Treasures Center, since objects of this kind tell the story of Israel’s history and heritage and

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