JERUSALEM, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Israeli archaeologists found that ancient clay artifacts, previously discovered in the south of the country, were used for popular magic rituals about 400 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement on Monday.
The artifacts were discovered in the late 1990s in the Eilat Mountains, near the southernmost Red Sea city of Eilat, along the ancient pilgrimage road from Egypt to Mecca.
The researchers said the Egyptian-made artifacts, found next to an ancient camping site, indicate that Muslim pilgrims en route from Cairo to Mecca stopped at professional sorcerers along the way.
The magical rituals were likely performed to ward off the evil eye, heal diseases, and more, the researchers said.
The collection primarily consists of clay globular rattles, some of which resemble table tennis balls. The rattles contain small stones that produce sound when shaken.
The assemblage also includes two miniature votive incense altars, a figurine of a nude woman or goddess with uplifted hands, several other figurines, and colored quartz pebbles.
The researchers suggest that the ancient artifacts, which were found broken, may have been deliberately fractured as part of ceremonial activities. ■