A diver scuba diving off the shores of Israel’s Palmachim Beach made an unusual discovery when he came across a 2,500-year-old marble disk. This object, shaped like an eye, was used to protect ancient ships from the evil eye of the evil eye. The rescuer immediately handed it over to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which confirmed its historical significance.
The marble disk in the form of an eye, dating from the 5th-4th centuries BCE, was a common ornament on the bow of ships in that era. Its purpose was multifaceted: it was believed to ward off the evil eye, bring good luck, help in navigation and serve to observe possible dangers. Similar ornaments in the form of eyes can still be found on modern ships in such countries as Portugal, Malta, Greece and the Far East.
Yaakov Sharvit, director of the Maritime Archaeology Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, sheds light on the significance of the find: “We learn from ancient drawings and historical sources that this design played a crucial role in maritime superstition. Not only did it protect against the evil eye, but it also served as a navigational aid, providing a pair of eyes to look ahead and warn of approaching danger.”
The marble disc, 20 cm in diameter, is flat on one side and curved on the other, with a central recess that shows traces of paint forming two circles around the center. This eye motif was attached to ships using lead or bronze nails. This find adds to the limited number of similar artifacts found in the Mediterranean region. Only four similar objects have been found so far, with two of them coming from a shipwreck off the coast of Turkey and the other two discovered on the Israeli coast.
The rarity of this artifact is surprising given its prevalence in antiquity. Archaeologists speculate that the harsh marine environment and the passage of time contributed to the rarity of these objects. However, the Yavne Yam archaeological site, located near Palmahim Beach, has proven to be a treasure trove of ancient artifacts that provide valuable insights into the maritime activities of the past.
The discovery of this marble disk is a testament to the rich history and superstitions associated with seafaring. Maritime archaeology plays a vital role in unlocking the secrets of our past, providing a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of our ancestors.
According to renowned archaeologist Dr. Emily Wilson, “Nautical archaeology allows us to explore the untold stories of ancient civilizations. Each artifact found in the depths of the sea adds another layer to our understanding of human history.”