Sarcophagus Fragment, Roman, ca. 240-250 CE, The Art Institute of Chicago

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ancient "eye" found off Israeli coast

Talismans where a common sight in all societies in the ancient world. The most famous, and provocative that come to mind are the phallic charms found in Ancient Rome. Many different talismans had unique functions, but they primarily where all designed to ward of some kind of evil or misfortune. The giant eye designs on the bows of ships where no different; watching the seas ahead for signs of danger. That an Israeli lifeguard stubbed his toe on a unique and important archaeological find shows how archeology is as much about chance as it is science. Artifacts are sometimes literally below our feet without us knowing it. Sometimes it takes the digging of a new subway tunnel in Naples or a lifeguard's foot to bring to light new finds. That this artifact exists at all should come as no surprise. Sea travel in the Classical world was risky business, but the unfortunate fate of ancient sailors has preserved many a ship wreck for us to study today.