Luck of the Jewish?
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Luck of the Jewish?

It’s not exactly a new archaeological discovery — it was discovered 40 years ago at Moshav Arbel in the Galilee near Tiberias — but an ancient amulet bearing the Divine name has been handed over to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

That has given IAA researchers and publicists occasions to theorize on the bronze pendant, which Dr. Eitan Klein, the deputy director of the IAA antiquities theft prevention unit, has dated to the 5th or 6th century C.E. That’s when Byzantine Christians ruled the Land of Israel.

One side of the object 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, who is lying on her back. A Greek inscription that reads “The One God who Conquers Evil” is engraved in a semicircle above her.

Beneath the horse’s legs are four Greek letters, which stand for the sacred four-letter Hebrew name of God.

The other side features an eye pierced by arrows and by a forked object. The eye is threatened from below by two lions, a snake, a scorpion, and a bird. On the upper part of the same side is the abbreviated Greek inscription: “One God.”

Dr. Klein said that the object is one of a number of amulets from that era “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. The amulet was therefore probably used to guard against the evil eye, possibly to protect women and children.”

Arbel was a Jewish settlement during the Byzantine period, 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 5th to 6th centuries C.E. may indicate that even Jews of the period wore amulets of this type for protection against the evil eye and demons,” Dr. Klein said.

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