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

Incantation scroll: “Duday Daughter of Imma D’Imma” calls on angels to deliver her from demons, in this 6-inch-long Aramaic lead incantation scroll written in black ink. Duday also invokes the tetragrammaton (YHWH), the unpronounceable four-letter name of God, and refers to names of demons that appear in Greek magical papyri from Egypt. Similar text is found on clay Aramaic incantation bowls, which have turned up in great numbers; they were generally buried in or near the owner’s house, as protection against evil.

This lead scroll was possibly rolled up and worn as an amulet, or hung from a rafter—or perhaps it, too, was buried in the house. It is the only ancient lead scroll yet found that is written in ink, rather than having its characters scratched or etched onto the thin metal. It is also the only Jewish-Aramaic metalic incantation scroll from the pre-Islamic period (which began in 640 C.E.).