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Pre-Islamic incantation bowls

Aramaic magic bowls are ordinary, unglazed, ceramic bowls which have spells inked on them, usually ones designed to protect certain individuals or families from demons and their injurious activities. The bowls were used in Mesopotamia in the sixth and seventh centuries CE (the Sasanid period), and offer unparalleled insights into the nature of the society that produced them, as well as being of great significance for the transmission and reception history of a variety of traditions and texts to which they make reference, prominently including the Hebrew Bible. Of some two thousand bowls known to be extant in various collections around the world, a majority are still to be published. Under the supervision of Professor Siam Bhayro, our students are producing editions (including transcription, translation, and commentary) of currently unpublished bowls, along with themed studies on pertinent subjects. The present focus of this research is on the private collection of Martin Schøyen (Oslo) and the public collection of the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Berlin); the latter collection, many of whose texts remain unpublished, was recently catalogued by a team including Professor Bhayro with the support of the British Academy. Funding for the graduate students has been granted by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Museum of the Bible Scholars’ Initiative.

See also the Virtual Magic Bowl Archive for additional resources relating to Aramaic incantation bowls and related corpora.