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Byzantine coin, Turkey, 300-1450 CE

The practice of carrying amulets or charms to bring good luck and good health through protection against disease has an extremely long history. This worn, slightly misshapen piece of copper was once a coin from Byzantium (modern day Istanbul), an ancient Greek city founded in the 600s BCE. More recently it has been carried as a protective amulet against smallpox.

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Glossary: coin

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Glossary: smallpox

Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.