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Jug Inscribed with a Persian Love Poem Discovered in Excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority
The jug inscribed with a Persian love poem. Photo: Clara Amit.
JERUSALEM.- A fragment of a pottery vessel of Persian provenance that dates to the Middle Ages (12th-13th centuries CE) was discovered in an archaeological excavation directed by Dr. Rina Avner, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the Old City of Jerusalem, prior to construction by a private contractor.

The fragment is treated with a turquoise glaze and is adorned with floral patterns and a black inscription. While studying the artifact prior to publication, Rivka Cohen-Amin of the Israel Antiquities Authority discerned that the inscription on the neck of the vessel is written in Persian. The inscription consists of a line that was taken from a quatrain. The inscription, which was translated by Dr. Julia Rabanovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reads: “Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat”.

The inscription will be published by Dr. Nitsan Amitai-Preiss of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, within the framework of the final excavation report.
According to Rivka Cohen-Amin the words are from the Rubaiyat, by the poet Omar Khayyam. Omar Khayyam was an astronomer, mathematician and one of the most famous Persian poets of the Middle Ages (11th-12th centuries CE).

The following is the complete translation of the poem:

Rubaiyat, by Omar Khayyam
این کوزه چو من عاشق زاری بوده است
This clay pot like a lover once in heat
در بند سر زلف نگاری بوده‌ست
A lock of hair his senses did defeat
ایندسته که بر گردن او می‌بینی
The handle that has made the bottleneck its own seat

دستی‌ست که برگردن یاری بوده‌ست
Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat

The phenomenon of a Persian pottery vessel inscribed with a poem is known elsewhere in the world; however, this is the first occurrence of such a vessel in Israel.

The question of how the vessel came to be in Jerusalem is a mystery – was it brought here by merchants or could it possibly have been a gift someone presented to his Jerusalemite lover?

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