“Magic Mirror” Excavated by Youth

Byzantine talisman uncovered by unlikely archaeologist

Magic Mirror

A fragment of the Byzantine magic mirror. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

While participating in a joint course by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Israeli Ministry of Education, a 17-year-old girl made an incredible discovery—a “magic mirror.” The young girl, Aviv Weizman, spotted the object nestled between two walls she was helping to excavate at the site of Usha near Haifa. During the Byzantine period (c. 324–634 CE), these small mirrors would have been used as talismans to ward off the Evil Eye.

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While the mirror’s reflective glass is no longer intact, the surrounding ceramic plaque was unmistakable to the site’s professional excavators. According to Navit Popovitch, the IAA’s curator for classical periods, “A glass mirror, for protection against the Evil Eye, was placed in the middle of the plaque: the idea was that the evil spirit, such as a demon, who looked in the mirror, would see his own reflection, and this would protect the owner of the mirror. Similar mirror plaques have been found in the past as funerary gifts in tombs, in order to protect the deceased in their journey to the world to come.”

magic mirror

Aviv Weitzman holding the magic mirror. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

When she discovered the mirror, Weizman was taking part in a field course consisting of more than 500 Israeli high school students that seeks to teach them more about cultural heritage and archaeology. “During the week-long trek, the [students] discovered additional finds, including pottery jars, coins, decorated stone fragments, and even a water aqueduct,” said Eli Eskzido, Director-General of the IAA. “History, usually taught in the classroom, comes to life from the ground.”

ancient Usha

Aeriel view of the site of Usha. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

However, you do not need to be a high school student to have a chance at making your own once-in-a-lifetime discovery. You can learn about dozens of excavations that are looking for volunteer excavators just like you by checking out BAS’s Digs page! Dozens of archaeological digs in Israel, Jordan, and elsewhere are looking for volunteers to help them excavate history. Whether you’re interested in the worlds of Kings David and Solomon, want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, or work in an ancient Phoenician city, we’ve got an archaeological dig for you.

Read more in Bible History Daily:

Byzantine Hammer and Nails Found at Ancient Usha

Byzantine Wine Press Uncovered in Israel


Read more in the BAS Library:

Illuminating Byzantine Jerusalem

Ferment in Byzantine Studies

Jesus’ Tomb Depicted on a Byzantine Gold Ring from Jerusalem

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.

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