This ancient bowl, possibly from the first century C.E., appears to have been used for fortune telling. One suggestive clue is an inscribed reference to "the magician."
No big so far--soothsaying by reading the patterns of oil in water is a familiar ancient practice.
What has scientists and historians excited about this object is the rest of the inscription, seen above--"dia Christou"--"through Christ."
If this a reference to the Christ of the gospels, it's evidence of an admixture of Christianity and white magic dating back to the early years of the Christian church. As one scholar notes, reports of a wonder worker might have spread throughout the region and been incorporated into existing spiritual practices:
Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present, made by a certain "Chrestos" belonging to a possible religious association called Ogoistais.
Klaus Hallof, director of the Institute of Greek inscriptions at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy, added that if Smith's interpretation proves valid, the word "Ogoistais" could then be connected to known religious groups that worshipped early Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses, such as Hermes, Athena and Isis.
Hallof additionally pointed out that historians working at around, or just after, the time of the bowl, such as Strabon and Pausanias, refer to the god "Osogo" or "Ogoa," so a variation of this might be what's on the bowl. It is even possible that the bowl refers to both Jesus Christ and Osogo.
Fabre concluded, "It should be remembered that in Alexandria, paganism, Judaism and Christianity never evolved in isolation. All of these forms of religion (evolved) magical practices that seduced both the humble members of the population and the most well-off classes."