All Israel

Israeli high school student discovers remnant from ‘magical mirror’ used against evil spirits

The fragment of the mirror plaque that liKely served a magical purpose (Photo: Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority)

A 17-year-old Israeli high school student discovered what is believed to be a broken piece of a 1,500-year-old “mirror plaque” dating to the late Roman or Byzantine period, between the 4th and 6th centuries), the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Thursday.

The discovery of the unusual pottery sherd was made by Aviv Weizman, who was participating in a Young Leaders’ Survival Course for pre-12th graders about a week ago.

The group of some 500 high schoolers was participating in an Israeli Education Ministry-sponsored trip, which included an excavation in the northern village of Usha, the location where Weizman found the “magical mirror,” the IAA explained.

Archaeologists said the use of mirrors to ward off demonic spirits was practiced in more than one religious circle in antiquity. While they can't determine with complete certainty that the decorated clay frame was a mirrored plaque intended to ward off evil spirits, the IAA thinks there is a strong possibility.

“The fragment is part of a “magical mirror” from the Byzantine period, the 4th–6th centuries C.E.,” said Navit Popovitch, IAA’s curator of the classical periods.

“This is our assumption. Mirror plaques were not functional as looking glasses as we think of them – they were usually quite small, a characterization that fits the present find."

According to Popovitch, the newly-discovered artifact is almost identical to one found in 2007 in a different location.

“They were put on babies’ cribs, or hung on the wall like a Hamsa,” Popovitch said, referring to amulets in the shape of the palm of a hand dating back to Mesopotamian times. The Hamsa can still be found in modern-day Israel’s souvenir shops, widely considered to be an object to bring good luck.

Weizman’s recent find is thought to be part of an evil-eye reflector.

According to historians, the ‘corrupt’ or ‘disruptive’ entity would see its reflection in the mirror and be horrified and depart, or possibly bounce back like a ray of light striking a mirror. As a result, the one who possesses the mirror would be protected, whether living or dead, since the mirrors were apparently known to have been placed among graves.

The excavation site where the mirror plaque fragment was found (Photo: Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority)

“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,” Popovitch said.

In the context of Israeli archaeology, the discovery of mirror plaques from the Late Roman period through the early Islamic period was almost always used by religious groups who believed in evil spirits and the ability to ward them off using these mirrors.

The unique find is a win for the Ministry of Education, the Antiquities Authority and, of course, the high schoolers themselves.

Israeli students' participation in excavations is intended to deepen their sense of belonging to the Jewish state and its heritage. According to the project coordinators, participating in excavations provides youth with "a personal empowering experience, connecting them to their roots.”

"A pupil who uncovers a find in the course of an excavation will never forget the experience. There is no better way to attach the youth to the country and the heritage," said IAA Director Eli Escusido.

During the week-long trek, students from the group also discovered pottery jars, coins, decorated stone fragments and a water aqueduct.


The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

All Israel
Receive latest news & updates
    A message from All Israel News
    Help us educate Christians on a daily basis about what is happening in Israel & the Middle East and why it matters.
    For as little as $5, you can support ALL ISRAEL NEWS, a non-profit media organization that is supported by readers like you.
    Donate to ALL ISRAEL NEWS
    Popular Articles
    Latest Stories