JERUSALEM – Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a rare 1,000-year-old clay amulet bearing an inscription in Arabic at a parking lot in the occupied East Jerusalem, Israel’s antiquities authority said on Thursday.
The tiny object, which has a diameter of less than 1 centimeter (0.4 inches), was dug up at the Givati Parking Lot just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, and is inscribed with the following two-line personal prayer: “Kareem Trusts in Allah; Lord of the Worlds is Allah.”
“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,” read a press release by the IAA quoting Yuval Gadot, a professor at Tel Aviv University.
Other remains found at the site suggest that the amulet belonged to the period of the Abbasid Caliphate, which ruled over most of the modern Middle East between approximately 750-1258 AD, in what many historians have termed the “Golden Age” of Islam.
It was found near an ancient “tabun” (a clay oven shaped like a truncated cone) and sealed under plaster flooring, inside a small room.
According to the researchers, the amulet constitutes a valuable testimony of daily life in the so-called Holy City during the early Islamic period, although whether it was placed under the floor on purpose during the building’s construction or simply lost by a passerby was something impossible to determine.
The archaeologists regretted that the structure’s poor preservation made it hard to ascertain its original purpose, though several installations indicated that cooking activities regularly occurred at the site.
Yiftah Shalev, co-director of the dig, told the Israeli daily “The Times of Israel” that “based on its small size and the fact that there is no hole for a string, it can be assumed that this is a personal item or amulet rather than a seal impression for closing documents or cloth sacks, such as have been discovered elsewhere from other time periods.”
It is a pretty unusual artifact, since most analogous inscriptions are found on seals with semi-precious stones or on roadside graffiti.
Shalev added that the team had rushed to publicize the amulet because they considered it would be fitting to announce it during Ramadan, as Muslims traditionally greet each other during the month-long period of fasting with the words “Ramadan Kareem.”
“We wanted to publicize it quickly, so as to give everyone its blessing during the holiday,” Shalev said.
The discovery was made in an area belonging to East Jerusalem, a part of the age-old city that Israel illegally annexed during the 1967 Six-Day War – in violation of international law and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention – while the Palestinian people claim it as the capital of their future state.