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1,500-year-old amulet bearing Jewish God’s name handed to Antiquities Authority

Necklace pendant was found 40 years ago in northern Israel and donated to National Treasures Center, was likely used during Talmudic period to stave off evil eye

A 1,500-year-old amulet bearing God's name, found in northern Israel 40 years ago and handed to the Israel Antiquities Authority in May 2021. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)
A 1,500-year-old amulet bearing God's name, found in northern Israel 40 years ago and handed to the Israel Antiquities Authority in May 2021. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)

An amulet bearing the name of the God of Israel, which dates back some 1,500 years and was unearthed 40 years ago, has been handed over to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the organization said in a statement Wednesday, thanking the donor for demonstrating “good citizenship.”

The necklace pendant was found by the late Tova Haviv, one of the first members of the community of Arbel, near Tiberias. The moshav had an ancient Jewish settlement during the Byzantine period — which was the Talmudic era in the Galilee — and features an ancient synagogue. A member of Haviv’s family has now handed the find over to the IAA’s National Treasures Center.

The bronze pendant attests to its owner’s beliefs and fear of the evil eye and harmful demons.

The obverse 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.” Beneath the horse’s legs are four Greek letters: I A W Θ, which stand for God’s Hebrew name (Yahweh, YHWH).

An 1,500-year-old amulet bearing God’s name, found in northern Israel 40 years ago and handed to the Israel Antiquities Authority in May 2021. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)

An eye depicted on the reverse is 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.”

“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,” said researcher Eitan Klein.

“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,” he added. “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.”

“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 they belong to all Israel’s citizens, both legally and in terms of their cultural value,” he said.

Eitan Klein holds an 1,500-year-old amulet bearing God’s name, found in northern Israel 40 years ago and handed to the Israel Antiquities Authority in May 2021. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)

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