Reportedly, the amulet was unearthed on the site of the ancient city of Nea Paphos, located in southwestern Cyprus. On one side, the amulet has inscribed 59 Greek symbols that constitute a palindrome – it reads the same backward as it does forward. Researchers have deciphered the meaning of the inscription:
“lahweh (an ancient god) is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine.”
Published articles on the matter of the ancient world claim that palindromes weren’t unfamiliar in that period. As a matter of fact, Joachim Śliwa, professor at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, stated that similar palindromes have been noticed in recent excavations throughout the ancient world.
What is possibly more interesting is what’s depicted on the other side of the amulet. It seems that scientists have been able to tell a lot about the intended use of the amulet and the person who made it.
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.
Other ways of understanding this unique artifact lie not in the depictions themselves, but in the manner in which they were made. So it is revealed that the creator of the amulet was not particularly skilled, nor does it seem they had a good understanding of the mythological persona they were representing.
As such, it can be observed that on the first side of the ancient amulet there is a mistake repeated twice: the character for „v” is erroneously replaced with „?”.
Also, the mythological characters are not represented in what was the normative way for that period. In most of the earlier depictions, Harpocrates is found sitting on a lotus flower, not on an ordinary stool as he is on the amulet. Also, the dog-headed creature, the cynocephalus would normally stand facing Harpocrates, with his paws upwards, as a sign of adoration. The lack of meaning in the depiction of the creature miming Harpocrates, makes us believe the creator was unskillfully mistaken. The erroneous gestures continue as the cynocephalus as well as Harpocrates seem to have lines on their bodies as if they were mummified, identical to Osiris.
The deeper meaning that the newly found amulet conveys is that traditional gods were still present in the beliefs of the Eastern Roman Empire’s population. Although officially polytheism along side ancient beliefs systems were forbidden by legal decree, old religions had insurmountable roots in peoples of that area.
Image Source: Ancient Origins
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