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Ancient Amulet Raises Questions of Magic in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

A thin metal scroll was discovered in an ancient city in Jordan that was destroyed by an earthquake during the dark ages. The scroll was soon ascertained to be made in the middle of the eighth century and was encased inside a lead case damaged from the wear and tear of time.

It was extremely fragile and scientists did not take the risk to unfurl it. However, they were able to decipher the writing via digitally imaging the letters inside. The inscription is believed to have been etched by a magician belonging to the Jewish religion. The magician was then living in Jerash, now Jordan, around 750 A.D.

The scientists from Aarhus University, Denmark found that the Arabic letters are gibberish. However, this discovery elaborates on the market that was present in the ancient world for magical objects. It was common practice at that time for spells to be etched on metal thin sheets. The metals used are sold, silver and lead. These were utilized as a coping mechanism to meet the vagaries of daily life like illnesses. Many were bought to protect the wearer from evil.

A group of archaeologists from Aaarhus University, Denmark and led by Rubina Raja, used 3D modeling and CT scanning to digitally unfold this Jerash scroll. The metal parchment was found to contain text- found to be 17 lines in total.  Magical spells are written in the first line, with the language a derivative of Greek. The written text is in a so called Arabic form which until now has defeated all efforts to be deciphered.

The lettering is indecipherable as such inscriptions made on metal were intended not to be read even at the time of etching. This is due to the fact that such amulets had the perceived function of letting the wearer speak directly to the medium. It is no wonder that few have been deciphered.

This indecipherable nature is common as ancient “magicians” were adept at creating languages of their own and took advantage of the fact that a majority of people cannot read or write. This enabled them to earn money even as they wrote nonsensical messages. These text had signs not written in Arabic letters. They were not even imitations of Arabic letters.

The amulet was found in a house that was destroyed during a 749AD earthquake. Other than this scroll, ceramics, glass bottles, coins and jewelry were also found from the ruins. 

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