Solomon’s knot is a traditional decorative motif used since ancient times and found in many cultures.
Despite the name, it is classified as a link and is not a true knot according to the definitions of mathematical knot theory.
- The Solomon’s knot often occurs in ancient Roman mosaics, usually represented as two interlaced ovals.
- Sepphoris National Park, Israel, has Solomon’s Knots in stone mosaics at the site of an ancient synagogue.
- Across the Middle East, historical Islamic sites show Solomon’s knot as part of Muslim tradition. It appears over the doorway of an early twentieth century CE mosque/madrasa in Cairo. Two versions of Solomon’s knot are included in the recently excavated Yattir Mosaic in Jordan. To the east, it is woven into an antique Central Asian prayer rug. To the west, it appeared in Moorish Spain, and it shines in leaded glass windows in a late twentieth century CE mosque in the United States. The British Museum, London, England has a fourteenth-century CE Egyptian Qur’an with Solomon’s Knot as its frontispiece.
- The University of California at Los Angeles Fowler Museum of Cultural History, USA has a large African collection that includes nineteenth and twentieth century CE Yoruba glass beadwork crowns and masks decorated with Solomon’s Knots.
- Home of Peace Mausoleum, a Jewish Cemetery, Los Angeles, California, USA has multiple images of Solomon’s knot in stone and concrete bas reliefs sculpted 1934 CE.
- Saint Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral, “Byzantine District” of Los Angeles, California, USA has an olive wood Epitaphios (bier for Christ) with Solomon’s knots carved at each corner. The Epitaphios is used in the Greek Easter services.
- The Powell Library University of California at Los Angeles, USA has ceiling beams in the Main Reading Room covered with Solomon’s Knots. Built-in 1926 CE, the reading room also features a central Dome of Wisdom bordered by Solomon’s knots.
In Latin, this configuration was sometimes known as sigillum Salomonis, meaning literally “seal of Solomon“. It was associated with the Biblical monarch Solomon because of his reputation for wisdom and knowledge (and in some legends, his occult powers).
This phrase is usually rendered into English as “Solomon’s knot“, since “seal of Solomon” has other conflicting meanings (often referring to either a Star of David or pentagram). In the study of ancient mosaics, it is often known as a “guilloche knot” or “duplex knot“, while Solomon’s knot in the center of a decorative configuration of four curving arcs is known as a “pelta-swastika” (where pelta is Latin for “shield”).
Among other names currently in use are the following:
- “Foundation Knot” applies to the interweaving or interlacing which is the basis for many elaborate Celtic designs, and is used in the United States in crochet and macramé patterns.
- “Imbolo” describes the knot design on the textiles of the Kuba people of Congo.
- “Nodo di Salomone” is the Italian term for Solomon’s Knot, and is used to name the Solomon’s Knot mosaic found at the ruins of a synagogue at Ostia, the ancient seaport for Rome.
Solomon’s knot Symbolism
Since the knot has been used across a number of cultures and historical eras, it can be given a range of symbolic interpretations.
Because the knot seems to be two entwined figures, it is sometimes interpreted as a Lover’s Knot, although that name may indicate another knot.
Because of religious connections, the knot is sometimes designated the all-faith symbol of faith, but, at the same time, it appears in many places as a valued secular symbol of prestige, importance, beauty.
The Knot appears on tombstones and mausoleums in Jewish graveyards and catacombs in many nations. In this context, Solomon’s Knot is currently interpreted to symbolize eternity.
Some seek to connect it with Solomon by translating the Hebrew word peka’im found in the Bible at I Kings 6:18 and I Kings 7:24 as meaning “knobs” or “knots“, and interpreting it to refer to Solomon’s knot; however, the more accepted modern translation of this word is “gourd-shaped ornaments“.
In Africa, Solomon’s knot is found on glass beadwork, textiles, and carvings of the Yoruba people. When the knot appears in this culture, it often denotes royal status; thus, it is featured on crowns, tunics, and other ceremonial objects. Also in Africa, the Knot is found on Kasai velvet, the raffia woven cloth of the Kuba people. They attribute mystical meaning to it, as do the Akan people of West Africa who stamp it on their sacred Adinkra cloth. In the Adinkra symbol system, a version of Solomon’s knot is the Kramo-bone symbol, interpreted as meaning “ki“.
In Latvia, when Solomon’s knot is used on textiles and metalwork, it is associated with time, motion, and the powers of ancient pagan gods.
In modern science, some versions of the conventionalized sign for an atom (electrons orbiting a nucleus) are variations of it. The logo of the Joomla software program is Solomon’s knot.