כמה קערות השבעה
The incantation bowls
Photo: Yoli Schwartz, Antiquities Authority
Some of the items that were recovered

Ancient bowls with Hebrew magic spells uncovered in a Jerusalem home

Hundreds of ancient finds, including rare artifacts from the biblical period, were seized during an operation by a special Israel Antiquities Authority's unit and local police from a home of a suspected seller of illegal antiquities

Ynet |
Published: 03.07.22, 13:16
Rare and decorated artifacts, including ancient bowls dating back some 1,500 years and bearing what appears to be magic spells in Hebrew, were uncovered at a residential home in Jerusalem, authorities said Monday.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • Hundreds of antique coins, glassware, and weapons were also discovered during a cooperative search by the Israel Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit and detectives from Lev HaBira police station.
    4 View gallery
    כמה מהפריטים שנתפסו אצל החשוד
    כמה מהפריטים שנתפסו אצל החשוד
    Some of the items that were recovered
    (Photo: Yoli Schwartz, Antiquities Authority)
    Israel Antiquities Authority said the items appear to be made out of bone and ivory, with some dating to the biblical period. They were seized from the resident of the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in the capital, suspected of illegally trading in antiquities.
    The incantation bowls, known as the “swearing bowls,” were used as an amulet in the ancient times, and date back to the 8th-4th centuries CE. It was common practice to bury them under the house floor for protection. Inside the bowls, inscriptions were written in the Babylonian-Aramaic language, signaling magic spells meant to fight curses, demons, diseases, and pests.
    According to Amir Ganor, head of the Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit, the bowls appear to have originated in Mesopotamia, or present-day Iraq.
    4 View gallery
    כמה קערות השבעה
    כמה קערות השבעה
    The incantation bowls
    (Photo: Yoli Schwartz, Antiquities Authority)
    "The text was written by artists for a specific client, according to their personal needs," he said. "Occasionally, as can be seen in one of the bowls, a figure of the 'night' demon, was painted in the center of the bowl, representing the individual that the bowl was meant to ward off. In 2003, following the war in Iraq, thousands of stolen 'incantation bowls' began to enter international trade markets.”
    The Israel Antiquities Authority believes that the suspect restored the bowls in order to put them up for sale. Besides the antiquities, various chemicals were seized in his house, which were allegedly intended for the restoration of the pottery, as well as for cleaning ancient metals and coins.
    In addition to hundreds of coins, rare items from the biblical period were discovered in the suspect's house - bone and ivory objects decorated in Phoenician style, with Egyptian motifs, that included scenes from the animal world, alongside geometric ornaments. On one of the objects appear two griffons - winged lions whose face is human, facing each other. The second artifact included a description of a convoy of four-winged lions marching one after the other.
    4 View gallery
    חלק מהמטבעות שנתפסו ברשותו של האיש
    חלק מהמטבעות שנתפסו ברשותו של האיש
    Some of the coins that were found in the suspect's house
    (Photo: Yoli Schwartz, Antiquities Authority)
    Similar ivory objects have been discovered in past excavations in an antiquity site in Samaria, where a large collection of ivory - known as "Samaria Ivories" was discovered – as well as at other antiquity sites such as Tel Megiddo. These are decorative items that were attached to wooden furniture by nails in the 9th and 8th centuries BC.
    Finding decorated artifacts made of ivory from this period is extremely rare, and the assessment at the Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit is that the artifacts were excavated illegally in one of the biblical mounds in Samaria, or in northern Israel.
    "Antiquities belong to all of us, they are our heritage," said Eli Eskosido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. "Unauthorized antiquities dealers encourage looters to go out and destroy ancient sites in search of finds for sale on the antiquities market. In the name of greed, they plunder antiquity sites, removing the finds from their historical context, thus obscuring parts of human history".
    4 View gallery
    לוח אשורי
    לוח אשורי
    Assyrian tablet
    (Photo: Yoli Schwartz, Antiquities Authority)
    Documents were seized in the suspect's home that may shed light about his connections with antiquities' robbers and unauthorized dealers. Following the investigation of the suspect, the Antiquities Authority inspectors arrived at an auction house in central Israel, where they seized additional artifacts that had been put up for sale by the suspect in violation of the law.
    Among the finds were also ancient weapons, glassware and bronze and silver coins.
    At the end of the investigation, the case file will be transferred to the Antiquities Authority Legal Bureau to examine the filing of an indictment concerning the attempted trade in antiquities without a permit, failure to report the discovery of an antique, failure to register a collection and possession of property suspected of being stolen - criminal offenses, for which the statutory penalty is up to three years in prison.
    Talkbacks for this article 0