Recent excavations, spearheaded by the Israel Antiquities Authority, have unveiled a fragment of what is believed to be a “magic mirror,” intended to safeguard against the malevolent “evil eye.” The remarkable discovery emerged at the historical site of Usha, positioned near Kiryat Atta within the Western Galilee region of Israel.
Usha gained prominence as the Patriarchate’s seat shifted to the city under the leadership of Gamaliel II in AD 80. The seat oscillated between Usha and Yavneh in subsequent years, witnessing periods of importance.
In the Byzantine Era, Usha flourished as a hub for glassware and metallurgical production, complementing the large-scale crafting of olive oil and wine.
Unearthed during the collaborative Shelah Project overseen by the Ministry of Education, wherein 500 high school students participated in archaeological endeavors across the nation, the mirror’s origin dates back around 1,500 years to the Byzantine era. It was found nestled within the walls of a building originating from the 4th to 6th centuries AD.
Navit Popovitch from the Israel Antiquities Authority shared insights, explaining that the mirror was conceived as a defense against malevolent spirits, including demons, who might encounter their reflection. Comparable mirrors have surfaced as funerary offerings interred in tombs, designed to shield the departed on their voyage to the afterlife.
Another theory suggests the mirror might have been employed in catoptromancy, an age-old practice of divination employing mirrors, prevalent among the Greeks and Romans.
Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, expressed, “Throughout the week-long expedition, the young leaders unearthed additional treasures, encompassing ceramics, coins, ornamental stone fragments, and even an aqueduct for water. History, typically confined to classrooms, springs to life from the ground. A student unearthing an artifact during excavation creates an indelible memory. It’s an unparalleled approach to fostering a connection between the youth and their heritage and country.”
In summary, the excavation at the Usha site in Israel has yielded a captivating discovery – a “magic mirror” purportedly designed to counteract negative influences, shedding light on both the historical practices and the engaging educational initiatives surrounding archaeological exploration.