Rare medieval healing bowl, archery rings found at Hasankeyf

This year’s excavation of the ancient Hasankeyf mound in southeastern Turkey has uncovered an 800-year-old bronze healing bowl and two archery rings made of agate and bone from the same period.

Healing bowls were used in medieval Islamic folk medicine to protect against animal bites. The inside of the bowl is engraved with talismanic verses, seals and images of a double-headed dragon, a dog, a snake and a scorpion. The dragon had apotropaic powers, providing protection from evil in two directions. The folk belief was that drinking water from a healing bowl would heal the drinker from dog, snake and scorpion bites. The engraving on this bowl makes the association specific. There are only 22 medieval healing bowls documented in museums and private collections around the world.

Archery rings (zihgirs in Arabic) were worn on the finger to protect the skin from damage from a bowstring. They were held in high value and were culturally significant artifacts in the Turkish-Islamic arts of the Middle Ages. These are the first zihgirs unearthed at Hasankeyf. One of them was found in a tomb of an adult male. The presence of the valuable ring indicates the deceased was someone of note, but no references to his identity have been found in the grave.

Built on the banks of the Tigris, Hasankeyf is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world, with evidence of occupation going back 12,000 years. The bowl and rings have been transferred to the Hasankeyf Museum Directorate for conservation and display.