Israel: Archaeologists discover large hoard of gold coins
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The ancient trinket was unearthed in northern Israel in the Biblical region of Galilee, near the Sea of Galilee. Tova Haviv, one of the first residents of the village of Arbel stumbled upon the necklace pendant some 40 years ago. A family member has now handed the artefact to the Israel Antiquities Authority, allowing experts to marvel at the discovery.
Archaeologists have dated the trinket to the fifth or sixth centuries AD, believing it is a so-called “Solomon’s Seal”.
These types of pendants and amulets were a popular way of warding off evil spirits in Galilee and Lebanon.
The pendant is roughly triangular or pear-shaped, with intricate inscriptions on either side.
The front is adorned by a haloed rider sitting atop a horse.
The rider is featured throwing a spear towards a female figure that experts have identified as Gello – a female demon from Greek mythology.
An inscription around the rider reads in Greek: “The One God who Conquers Evil”.
Below the horse, you can just make out the Greek letters “I A W Θ”, which spell out the name of the Hebrew God Y-H-W-H or Yahweh.
On the amulet’s reverse, is an eye pierced by multiple arrows and surrounded by two lions, a snake, a scorpion and a bird.
Another Greek inscription features on this side and reads: “One God.”
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According to Dr Eitan Klein, the deputy director of the IAA’s Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit, the amulet may have been worn to protect women and children from the influence of the evil eye.
In Greek mythology, Gello was believed to cause infertility and miscarriages, as well we infant mortality.
According to one myth, Gello was a young woman who died as a virgin only to return as a vengeful ghost.
In the Byzantine tradition, the gello were a type of nocturnal creatures or spirits that haunted households and killed infants.
The archaeologist said: “The amulet is part of a group of fifth to 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.
“The amulet was therefore probably used to guard against the evil eye, possibly to protect women and children.”
During the Byzantine period (330 to 1453 AD), Arbel existed as a Jewish settlement.
According to the IAA, there are also mentions of the village in the Hebrew Bible.
The nearby Mount Arbel towers over the region in The Lower Galilee near the city of Tiberias.
The IAA said in a Facebook post: “We thank the amulet’s donor for demonstrating good citizenship.
“Objects of this kind tell the story of Israel’s history and heritage and they belong to all the citizens of Israel, both legally and in terms of their cultural value.”
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