A 1,500-year-old necklace pendant discovered in the Galilee that is believed to offer protection against the “evil eye” has been handed over to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
The amulet offers a snapshot of the superstitions that were probably part of Jewish life in the time of the Byzantine Empire.
It was found in the village of Arbel in Israel by one of the settlement’s earliest residents, Tova Haviv, around 40 years ago.
Haviv has since passed away, but one of her relatives handed over the artefact to the IAA prior to 26th May, which has confirmed its antiquity and announced the acquisition.
The triangle-shaped pendant displays a haloed horse rider throwing a lance at a woman figure lying on the ground bordered by a Greek inscription that reads “The One God who Conquers Evil”.
Beneath the horse are the Greek letters “IAWO”, equivalent to the Hebrew “YHWH”, or Yahweh, the national god of Ancient Israel.
On the reverse side are depictions of two lions, a bird, a snake and a scorpion with an eye pierced by arrows in the centre in addition to another inscription in Greek reading “One God”.
Dr Eitan Klein of the IAA believes it was made in Galilee or Lebanon and dates to the fifth or sixth century.
He believes the female figure represents Gello, the female demon or revenant in Greek mythology, and that the eye on the other side represents the evil eye.
The evil eye is a superstitious curse or legend dating back at least to Greek classical antiquity, and Dr Klein believes the pendant was “probably used to guard against the evil eye”.
Because it was discovered in Arbel, which during the Byzantine Period was a Jewish settlement, the object was probably owned by a Jew.
This is significant, according to Klein, who said: “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”.
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