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Virtual Magic Bowl Archive
The Virtual Magic Bowl Archive (VMBA) is a collaborative project involving scholars from Israel and the United Kingdom.
The VMBA was initially established by Dr Dan Levene and hosted by the University of Southampton from 2009. In 2014, it was transferred to the University of Exeter, to be continued under the supervision of Dr Siam Bhayro.
The aim of the VMBA is to provide online resources for those engaged in the study of Aramaic incantation bowls from Sasanian Mesopotamia, perhaps the most important primary source we have for studying the everyday beliefs and practices of the Jewish, Christian, Mandaean, Manichaean, Zoroastrian and Pagan communities on the eve of the Islamic conquests.
While we envisage more features being added over time, the initial resources will focus on some 650 texts that comprise part of the Schøyen Collection, which are currently being prepared for publication by an international team of scholars under the supervision of Professor Shaul Shaked.
The first published volume of incantation bowls from the Schøyen Collection is:
S. Shaked, J.N. Ford and S. Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls Volume One (Magical and Religious Literature of Late Antiquity 1; Leiden: Brill, 2013)
For those interested in learning more about the Aramaic incantation bowls, Dr Levene's booklet Curse or Blessing: What's in the Magic Bowl? can be downloaded as a PDF.
Browse the VMBA photographic archive.
See also Pre-Islamic Incantation Bowls for details of our research on the Schøyen Collection’s Aramaic incantation bowls.
Dr Dan Levene (University of Southampton)
Dr Dan Levene is Reader in Jewish History and Culture in the History Department at the University of Southampton. He specialises in late antique magic and archaeometallurgy. He established the original VMBA site in Southampton in 2009.
Professor Matthew Morgenstern (Tel Aviv University)
Professor Matthew Morgenstern teaches in the Department of Hebrew Culture Studies at Tel Aviv University. He specialises in the Hebrew of the Second Temple Period and Aramaic dialects, in particular Jewish Babylonian Aramaic and Mandaic. He is responsible for the majority of the photographs on the VMBA, which are used with his kind permission.
Dr Ortal-Paz Saar
Dr Ortal-Paz Saar researches religious studies and Jewish cultural history, focusing on ancient and medieval magic and rituals. She has worked on various magical corpora, including the incantation bowls and manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah, and is responsible for the VMBA's prosopographic database and bibliography.
Professor Shaul Shaked (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Professor Shaul Shaked is Schwarzmann University Professor (Emeritus) in Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has published extensively in the fields of Semitic and Iranian philology, Zoroastrianism and Judaism, and received the Israel Prize for Linguistics in 2000.