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Archaeologists discovered 1,800-year-old medal with the head of Medusa

Archaeologists have discovered a unique piece of history during excavations in the ancient city of Perre, located in the province of Adıyaman in the southeast of Turkey.

Archaeologists discovered 1,800-year-old medal with the head of Medusa 1
A military medal believed to be almost 1,800 years old has been found by archaeologists in Turkey. © Archaeology World

A 1,800-year-old bronze military medal was discovered, with Medusa’s head featured on it. Medusa, who was also known as Gorgo in Greek mythology, was one of the three monstrous Gorgons, which were imagined to be winged human females with living venomous snakes for hair. Those who looked into her eyes would turn to stone.

The term “Medusa” in ancient Greek lore signifies “guardian.” Consequently, Medusa’s visage in Greek art is often employed to symbolize protection and is comparable to the contemporary evil eye that advertises protection against evil forces. Medusa was a protection amulet in ancient times, just like a contemporary amulet would, to protect against evil spirits.

Archaeologists discovered 1,800-year-old medal with the head of Medusa 2
Bronze military medal with Medusa head found in the ancient city of Perre in Adiyaman province. © Archaeology World

According to legend, even a brief glance at the eye of Medusa would turn a person to stone. This is one of Medusa’s most familiar characteristics and is one of the reasons she is thought of as a guardian capable of warding off evil spirits.

Medusa or Gorgons are frequently depicted on the front of Roman Emperors’ or generals’ armor, on mosaic floors across Britain and Egypt, and on the walls of Pompeii. Alexander the Great is also depicted with Medusa on his armor, on the Issus mosaic.

The story goes that Minerva (Athena) donned a gorgon on her shield to make herself a more formidable warrior. Obviously, what’s good for a goddess is good for the masses. Besides Medusa’s face being a common design on shields and breastplates, it also appeared on Greek mythology. Zeus, Athena, and other divinities were portrayed with a shield bearing Medusa’s head.

Excavations on the site continue, focusing on mosaics and the so-called ‘infinity ladder’ section, said Mehmet Alkan, director of the museum. According to Alkan, the medal with a Medusa head was an award given to a soldier for his success.

They believe it was worn by a soldier on or around his shield during a military ceremony. Last year, they also discovered a 1,800-year-old military diploma here, which they think was awarded for military service.