Getting Closer – Research on the origin of magic signs (Cambridge, 2013)

International Conference: CRE XIV – Crossing Boundaries
University of Cambridge, March 19-22, 2013

Abstract
Magical signs occur from the late 1st/early 2nd century AD throughout the northwestern Roman Empire on artefacts of applied magic on one hand, and in Greek spell collections from Egypt on the other hand. Within a few decades they were distributed all over the Roman Empire, their inclusion in Demotic and Coptic spell collections soon following. This paper is divided into three sections. First I am going to outline the occurrence and manipulation of magic signs as described in the Greek, Demotic, and Coptic spell collections dating to the 1st-7th century AD. Iwill then provide an overview of the archaeological evidence of applied magic depicting magic signs dated to the same period. In addition, the few known historical sources will be introduced as well. Combining the information gained from the philological, archaeological, and literary sources, I will outline a theory of the origin of magic signs. This origin seems not to be part of an ancient Egyptian tradition, as is often assumed, but may rather shed some light on an ancient way to outline cultural borders within the cross-cultural setting of magical practice in Egypt and how these borders were re-interpretated in late antiquity.

Link to the Conference webpage

The results of this research will be published separately.

Contact: kirsten.dzwiza@uni-heidelberg.de

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