Amulet Offers Up 1.5K-Year-Old Palindrome

But ancient artifact discovered in Cyprus has a few mistakes
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2015 1:52 PM CST
Amulet Offers Up 1.5K-Year-Old Palindrome
Researchers discovered the amulet in Cyprus.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – It seems that palindromes—phrases that read the same forward and backward—have been popular for a very long time. Researchers have discovered an amulet in Cyprus dating back some 1,500 years, and the words inscribed form such a phrase, LiveScience reports. Translated from Greek, the words say, "Iahweh is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine." Well, they almost say that: The person who carved the amulet made a few mistakes with the letters, an expert says. The amulet was actually discovered in 2011, but professor Joachim Sliwa of the University of Krakow is detailing it now.

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It's one of several examples of ancient palindromes, he says. On the other side of the amulet, there's an image which also has some apparent mistakes; it features what appears to be a pair of gods, Osiris and Harpocrates, along with a being called a cynocephalus that has a dog's head. "It is iconographically based on Egyptian sources, but these sources were not fully understood by the creator of the amulet," Sliwa writes in Studies in Ancient Art and Civilization. The amulet is further evidence of how paganism continued to exist despite bans in the Eastern Roman Empire, another researcher notes. The amulet was discovered at Nea Paphos, an ancient city that is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, as Ancient Origins notes. (Shipwrecks recently offered a new look at the Byzantine Empire.)

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