Bruce and Kenneth Zuckerman, West Semitic Research/The Mouissaieff Collection, London

Akedah pendant: The provenance of this one-inch-high, onyx pendant is unknown. Its obverse side, shown on this issue’s cover, depicts the story of Abraham’s binding of Isaac, known as the Akedah (Genesis 22): God commands Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac; when Abraham shows his willingness to obey God’s order, God relents and tells Abraham to spare Isaac. Abraham then spies a ram, which he sacrifices instead.

Although this story is familiar, the writing shown above is extremely enigmatic: The letters can be clearly read (in Byzantine Aramaic script), but they form only meaningless sequences that have not as yet been deciphered. It is possible that the writing on the pendant uses Aramaic characters to express a different language altogether; or it may be that the pendant is inscribed in a kind of code.