Tel Aviv, July 14 : A rare 2,500-year-old marble discus that was meant to protect ancient ships from the evil eye was found by a lifeguard while diving in the antiquities site of Yavne-Yam, next to Palmahim beach, Israel.
David Shalom, the lifeguard who discovered the ancient discus, turned it over to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The white discus, which dates to the 5th-4th century BCE, is flat on one side and convex on the other, and measures 20 centimeters in diameter.
In the middle of the discus are a perforation and the remains of two circles that are painted around the center of it.
This object has been identified as representing the pupil of an eye that adorned the bow of an ancient warship or cargo ship.
Its Greek name is ophtalmoi and a lead coupling or bronze nail that was driven through the hole in the center of the discus was used to attach the object to the hull of the ship.
According to Kobi Sharvit, the director of the Marine Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "We know from drawings on pottery vessels, pithoi and ancient coins, as well as from historic sources of the fifth century BCE that this model was very common on the bows of ships and was used to protect them from the evil eye and envy, and was meant as a navigation aid and to act as a pair of eyes which looked ahead and warned of danger."
"This decoration is also prevalent today on modern boats in Portugal, Malta, Greece and in the Far East," he added.
Even though this item was common and one would expect that many such objects would be found, it is actually quite rare, as to date, only four other such ancient artifacts were discovered in the Mediterranean Sea.
A concentration of artifacts was discovered at the site, which date to the Bronze Age and include dozens of gold objects (earrings, beads, pieces of jewelry and waste from the jewelry industry) and a hematite seal of Syrian provenance.
The concentration was located scattered in an area where twenty hematite seals, bronze arrowheads, axes and two small statues of the god Ba'al were found in the past.
The archaeological finds indicate that the anchorage was used continuously from the Late Bronze Age until Middle Ages.