Archaeologists digging up at one of the oldest sites in Israel have stumbled upon a 1,000-year-old clay amulet that is one of a kind.
A team of researchers working at the Givati Parking Lot, one of the oldest excavation sites believed to be part of the urban core of ancient Jerusalem, have unearthed a rare clay amulet belonging to a Muslim devotee named Kareem one millennium ago.
The amulet is an uncommon find. Etched into the dime-sized talisman is an Arabic inscription that says "Kareem Trusts in Allah; Lord of the Worlds is Allah."
Nitzan Amitai-Preiss of the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University, who read the two-line inscription, says the wording in the first line is similar to those found in seals made of semi-precious stones used for authenticating documents and cloth sacks. It also matched some of the roadside markings made by pilgrims during the eighth to 10th centuries on their way to Mecca.
The second line, which is faded and harder to make out, was interpreted based on the same stone seals and verses in the Koran.
"The problem with this specific amulet was that even though we enlarged it with a high-quality photograph, part of the writing was worn out," Amitai-Preiss says. "Not everyone would have been able to read the text, especially when it is this small."
From The Golden Age Of Islam
The amulet was discovered buried between the plaster flooring of a structure dating back to the Abbasid dynasty. The Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate ruled from the ninth to 10th centuries during what is known as the Golden Age of Islam. At its peak, the empire stretched from North Africa in the west to Armenia, Afghanistan, and Turkestan in the east.
Along with the amulet, archaeologists also uncovered broken shards of pottery and an intact oil lamp covered in black soot, indicating it was used regularly. These were found in a small room near a tabun, or an oven, and the amulet was placed there possibly as a plea for divine protection.
The thumbnail-sized amulet does not show signs of having been glued to a base, as it would have been if it were used as a seal. It also was not used as a pendant hung around the neck, as it did not have holes for a string necklace to pass through.
Yiftah Shalev, archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, says the amulet would have been placed between the flooring during the construction of structure.
"Since time immemorial, the purpose of amulets like these is to seek protection from the evil eye," Shalev says.
Amulet Found In Residential Home
There are very few clay amulets found in archaeological digs. Friable clay is fragile and most objects made 1,000 years ago would have disintegrated by now.
Unfortunately, the structure where the amulet was found was not in the best of conditions. The archaeologists found walls and tiles as well as some cooking utensils that indicate the structure was possibly a residential home with a small area reserved for a food business.
Earlier excavations uncovering a huge commercial center buried under houses, stores, and workshops fit with this theory.