A 1,500 year old two sided amulet has been unearthed by archeologists from a dig site in Cyprus. The mystical amulet contains a 59 letter palindrome (something that reads the same backward as well) which looks like a curious collection of ancient Greek Gods. Though symbols have not yet been deciphered, experts believe it will shed some useful information about the beliefs prevailing in the region around the time.
The amulet was dug out from the ancient city of Nea Paphos in southwest Cyprus, a small island nation in the eastern Mediterranean. Paphos is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is valued greatly by archaeologists and antiquities scholars for its remains of villas, palaces, theaters and tombs.
“The site is of exceptional architectural and historic value,” UNESCO contends. “The mosaics of Nea Paphos are among the most beautiful in the world.”
Experts believe this amulet points out that the people of the region practiced traditional, polytheistic beliefs well into the 5th century, even as Christianity became the official religion under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire. Amulets like these were worn to protect the owners from danger and harm.
Palindromes like the one seen on the Paphos amulet have been found at many other ancient sites as well, suggesting that our ancestors were not unaware of words reading the same backwards as well, says Joachim Sliwa, a professor at the Institute of Archaeology at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. He has also drawn attention to two small mistakes made by the person who wrote this palindrome, in two instances writing a “ρ” instead of “v.”
The Greek palindrome on this amulet translates as: “Lahweh is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine.” On the other side of it are a series of images. “The striking image is of a bandaged mummy, probably representing Osiris, the Egyptian god. He drawn lying on a boat alongside Harpocrates (the Greek god of silence). Harpocrates is represented sitting, with his right hand held to his mouth. A more dubious feature of the amulet is the third figure – a cynocephalus, a mythical creature, that seems to mimic Harpocrates pose, holding his paws to its mouth.”
Historians studying this artifact say that the manner in which this masterpiece was made holds more importance for them than what has been inscribed thereon. From the mistakes, they can already say that it was not made by a very skilled artist. Sliwa has also pointed out several other flaws in the inscription which suggest that the person who created it did not perhaps understand the Egyptian Gods and icons well enough.