Ancient Marble Disc to Protect Ships from Evil Eye Discovered

But Hashem cast a mighty wind upon the sea, and such a great tempest came upon the sea that the ship was in danger of breaking up.




(the israel bible)

August 11, 2023

2 min read

An off-duty lifeguard was diving off the Palmachim Beach found a 2,500-year-old marble disc that was once commonly used by ships to ward off the evil eye.

David Shalom was diving at the Yavne-Yam archaeological off Palmachim Beach, a natural rocky bay near the modern city of Rishon Lezion when he discovered the large white marble disc measuring about 20 cm in diameter. It is flat on one side and curved on the other, and it has a central cavity with traces of paint appearing as two circles around the center. He turned the disc over to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) who identified it as an eye motif, known in Greek as “ophtalmoi”. Lead or bronze nails attached the center of the disc to the ship’s hull.

Yaakov Sharvit, Director of the Marine Archaeology Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority, explained: “From drawings on pottery, mosaics, and ancient coins, as well as from historical sources from the 5th century BCE, we learn that this design was common on ships’ bows and served to protect against the evil eye and envy, aided navigation, and acted as a pair of eyes looking ahead and warning of danger. This decoration is still common today on modern ships in Portugal, Malta, Greece, and the far east.”

While these were commonly used, only four similar ancient items have been discovered to date in the Mediterranean: two from the wreck of an ancient merchant ship found at the Tektaş Burnu site off the western coast of Turkey, between the islands of Samos and Kios, dating to 440–425 BCE, and two on the Mediterranean coast of Israel—one from the Carmel Beach and the other, just discovered, on the Yavneh-Yam coast.

“Yavne-Yam was settled for the first time in the Middle Bronze Age,” Sharvit says, “and was settled down to the Middle Ages. Near the ancient mound, there is a natural sheltered anchorage protected by a rock promontory.”

Researchers have also found items that were used on ships including a lead cooking oven, grinding stones, stone bowls, storage jars and cooking pots.

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