Nea Paphos (Chypre): Palindrome Inscription Found on Ancient Amulet

1,500-Year-Old Amulet Reads the Same Backwards as It Does Forwards

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Ancient amulet e1420289508775

Marcin Iwan / Jagiellonian University

A recent paper in the journal Studies in Ancient Art and Civilization announces the discovery of a fairly odd amulet in present-day Cyprus. The amulet, featured in the photos accompanying this article, displays both an inscription and several images.

What makes it just a tad bizarre when compared to other artifacts of this kind that have been recovered over the decades is the fact that the inscription it shows is a palindrome. Simply put, the message inscribed on it reads the same backwards as it does forwards.

Not the kind of inscription amulets usually display

As detailed in the journal Studies in Ancient Art and Civilization, the message inscribed on this amulet found in southwest Cyprus reads as follows, “ΙΑΕW ΒΑΦΡΕΝΕΜ ΟΥΝΟΘΙΛΑΡΙ ΚΝΙΦΙΑΕΥΕ ΑΙΦΙΝΚΙΡΑΛ ΙΘΟΝΥΟΜΕ ΝΕΡΦΑΒW ΕΑΙ.”

The 59-letter message, composed 1,500 years ago, is written in Greek, and specialists familiar with the language say that it translates as “ Iahweh [a god] is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine,” Live Science informs.

It is believed that the amulet's owner relied on it to protect themselves against harm. What's interesting is that the artifact dates back to a time when Cyprus was part of the Eastern Roman Empire and Christianity was the official religion in the region.

The discovery of this amulet indicates that, regardless of what their rules would have them do, folks who lived in the area 1,500 years ago still worshiped old gods that had nothing Christian about them and that consequently weren't even approved of.

The inscription is accompanied by peculiar images

In the report documenting their work, archaeologist Joachim Śliwa with the Institute of Archaeology at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and fellow researchers detail that the amulet also shows a mummy whose body is covered in bandages.

This mummy is believed to represent the Egyptian god Osiris and is accompanied by a depiction of an ancient god of silence known as Harpocrates. A representation of a scary-looking creature whose head resembles that of a dog is also visible on one of the amulet's sides.

The silence god and the mythical dog-like creature are both shown covering their own mouth. The thing is that, as explained by specialist, Joachim Śliwa, these two representations of the god Harpocrates and the creature, identified as a cynocephalus, greatly deviate from the norm.

Thus, the silence god should have been depicted sitting on a lotus flower and not on a stool, and the dog-headed creatures should have been shown raising its paws and not covering its mouth. Besides, it is a mystery why Harpocrates and the cynocephalus were depicted with bandages covering their bodies.

Commenting on these rather odd representations, Joachim Śliwa said, “It must be stated that the depiction is fairly unskilled and schematic. It is iconographically based on Egyptian sources, but these sources were not fully understood by the creator of the amulet.”

1 500 year old amulet reads the same backwards as it does forwards 468779 3

Marcin Iwan / Jagiellonian University