The story behind this ancient amulet to ward off demons

Bronze necklace pendant depicts a demon galloping on a horse, an eye being pierced by arrows and a forked object and the Greek inscription ‘One God.’


The reverse side of an ancient bronze amulet found near the ruins of the Arbel synagogue in northern Israel depicts protection against the evil eye. Photo by Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority


An ancient bronze necklace pendant attesting to its owner’s fear of demons and the evil eye recently made its way to the Israel Antiquities Authority, some 40 years after it was unearthed near the site of a Byzantine-era synagogue.

The amulet was originally found near the remains of the ancient Arbel synagogue by a nearby resident, Tova Haviv. When she died, a family member brought it to the National Treasures Center at the IAA, where it was examined.

“The amulet is part of a group of fifth- to sixth-century CE amulets from the Levant that were probably produced in the Galilee and Lebanon,” explains Eitan Klein, deputy director of the Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit.

The front side of the pendant depicts the figure of a haloed rider on a galloping horse, thrusting a spear toward a female figure lying on her back. Engraved in a semicircle above the rider is a Greek inscription that reads: “The One God who Conquers Evil.” Beneath the horse appear the Greek letters I A W Θ, which stand for the Jewish Divine Name (Yahweh, IHYH).

The obverse side of the pendant shows a galloping rider overcoming a demon and the Greek letters for the Jewish Divine Name. Photo by Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority

The reverse side shows the evil eye being pierced by arrows and a forked object and threatened by lions, a snake, a scorpion and a bird. On the top part of the scene appears the abbreviated Greek inscription for “One God.”