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Archaeologists Uncover ‘Very Rare’ Arabic-inscribed Amulet In Jerusalem

Researchers say 1,000-year-old tiny piece of clay was found sealed between plaster flooring

Archaeologists in Jerusalem have uncovered a “very rare” clay amulet bearing an Arabic inscription that dates back to the Abbasid period 1,000 years ago. Found in the Givati Parking Lot site in the City of David, the tiny piece measures just one centimeter in size (less than half an inch) and was found in a joint excavation led by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University.

“The size of the object, its shape, and the text on it indicate that it was apparently used as an amulet for blessing and protection,” Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority conveyed in a statement. “Because this amulet does not have a hole to thread it on a string, we can assume that it was set in a piece of jewelry or placed in some sort of container.”

The inscription on the amulet is a blessing, according to researchers, which reads: “Kareem Trusts in Allah, Lord of the Worlds is Allah.” Such a personal prayer would have been common at the time in seals and roadside inscriptions made along the route Muslim pilgrims would take to Mecca between the 8th and 10th centuries.

Dr. Nitzan Amitai-Preiss of Hebrew University in Jerusalem told The Media Line it was no easy feat to decipher the miniscule writing on the seal.

“I am used to working with small artifacts and with inscriptions,” Dr. Amitai-Preiss explained. “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. Not everyone would have been able to read the text, especially when it is this small.”

Though similar inscriptions have been found on other objects from the same period, especially seals and semi-precious stones, this particular type of clay object is unusual.

“It’s probably the first time that I found something this tiny in an excavation,” Dr. Shalev related to The Media Line, adding that the find is also considered rare because of its extreme fragility (clay artifacts are usually not preserved for centuries).

The object was discovered in a small room sealed between plaster flooring, along with an Abbasid-era lamp. Due to the poor preservation of the building, archaeologists said it was difficult to determine its original purpose.

“It is interesting to note that several installations indicate cooking activities that occurred here,” the researchers said. “Modest structures from the same period were found in prior excavations at the same site, including residential homes interspersed with stores and workshops.”

The Givati archaeological site, the focal point of numerous excavations over the past 15 years, is the source of other important archaeological discoveries. Archaeologists recently unearthed part of a Seleucid fortress built by the Hellenistic king Antiochus IV Epiphanes; a large villa from the Roman Era; as well as coins and other smaller items. The current expedition is focused on the later and more obscure periods in Jerusalem’s history, according to Dr. Shalev.