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Ancient Aramaic incantation describes ‘devourer paid’ that brings the ‘fire’ to the victims

The ancient incantation had illustrations of animals, such as scorpions on the front and back (pictured here).
(Photo by Roberto Ceccacci/Courtesy of the Chicago-Tübingen Expedition to Zincirli)

A 2,800-year-old incantation, written in Aramaic, describes the capture of a creature called the “devourer paid” is said to be able to produce “fire”.

Discovered in August 2017, in a small building, probably a shrine, at the site of Zincirli (called “Sam’al”, in the ancient times), in Turkey, the incantation is inscribed on a stone cosmetic container. Written by a man who practiced magic, which is called the “Rahim son of Shadadan,” the invocation “describes the seizure of a threatening being [called] the ‘devourer paid,'” wrote Madadh Richey and Dennis Pardee in the summary of a presentation they gave recently at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. That event took place in Denver between Nov 17 and 21.

The blood of the devourer paid was used to the treatment of someone who seems to be suffering from the “fire” of the devourer paid, said Richey, a doctoral student in the Department of Oriental Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. It is not clear whether the blood was given to the affected person in a potion that can be ingested or it was smeared on their bodies, Richey told Live Science. [Crack Codices: 10 of the Most Mysterious Ancient Manuscripts]

“In the text are illustrations of various creatures, including what looks like a centipede, a scorpion, and a fish,” wrote Richey and Pardee, Henry Crown professor of Hebrew studies at the University of Chicago, in the executive summary. The illustrations are to be found on both sides of the cosmetic container.

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The ship was originally stored make-up, and it seems to be re-used for the purpose of the writing of this incantation, said Virginia Herrmann, who is co-director of the Chicago-Tübingen Expedition to Zincirli, the team discovered that the incantation.

What is the “devourer paid?”

The images suggest that the “devourer paid” may actually be a scorpion or centipede; as such, the “fire” may refer to the pain of the creatures’ sting, Richey told Live Science.

In fact, scorpions are a hazard for archaeologists working on the site. “We always have to check our bags and shoes for scorpions in the excavation, even though most of the local scorpions do not have a very dangerous poison,” said Herrmann, noting that shortly after the oath was removed from the site, “one of our local employees was stung by a scorpion that had crept on his backpack, which was sitting on the ground,” and the archaeological team rushed to apply first aid.

Long life

Analysis of the invocation’s writing indicates that it was written somewhere between 850 B. C. and 800 B. C., said Richey, adding that this is the inscription of the oldest Aramaic incantation ever found. However, the small building where the incantation was found seems to date for more than a century later, at the end of the eighth or seventh century, B. C., Herrmann, told Live Science. This suggests that the oath was considered important enough that it continued long after Rahim would have registered, Herrmann said. [5 Ancient Languages Yet To Be Deciphered]

The incantation “had a meaning which long survived the original owner,” Herrmann said. It was not the only artifact found in the small building that was kept long after it was made, ” she said, noting that a “frame base of a crouching lion made of polished black stone, inlaid with red eyes” was also discovered. That lion figure seems to have been made in the 10th or ninth century B. C. The statue base once supported a metal statuette of a striding deity,” Herrmann added.

Sam bale, where the building is located, was the capital of a small Aramaean kingdom that flourished between about 900 B. C. and 720 B. C., says Herrmann, noting that the city was conquered by the Assyrians around 720 B. C.

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Originally published on Live Science.

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