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Materia Magica

The Archaeology of Magic in Roman Egypt, Cyprus, and Spain

Andrew Wilburn

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: New Texts from Ancient Cultures


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication, Foreward

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pp. 2-11


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pp. xi-13


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pp. xiii-17

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pp. 1-11

Sometime around 1850, a certain Mr. Jacobini conducted excavations in the Marini vineyard, which was located along the Via Appia, just outside of the San Sebastiano gate in the Aurelian Wall at Rome. Over the course of the work, he came upon a badly disturbed tomb, which was, in all likelihood, a columbarium, a building that housed a large number of cremation burials, ...

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Chapter 1 - Finding Magic in the Archaeological Record

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pp. 12-53

Excavating at the site of Karanis in the Egyptian Fayum in 1924, the team from the University of Michigan uncovered a cache of more than eighty animal and human bones, all of which had been decorated with red paint (plate 3). The substance had been applied in one or more of three designs— dots, straight lines arranged in a horizontal row and bisected by a perpendicular line, and ...

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Chapter 2 - Materia Magica

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pp. 54-94

In 1933, with excavation moving along at a swift pace, the University of Michigan team began digging under a house in the top layer of occupation. There was little that was notable about the house, which the excavators designated as number 165, and, in later reports, it is not singled out for any special treatment. Nor was it architecturally remarkable: its contents did not contain material ...

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Chapter 3 - Identifying the Remains of Magic in the Village of Karanis

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pp. 95-168

Magic was alive and well in the villages of the Roman empire. Our sources point to the rural town as a place where spells and curses lurked around every corner. We can well imagine village grandmothers curling fingers around thumbs to avoid the evil eye or swarthy foreigners enchanting young women by more than their good looks. For Egypt and rest of the Mediterranean, there ...

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Chapter 4 - Practitioners and Craft at Amathous, Cyprus

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pp. 169-218

Egypt’s rich documentary record is the result of a dry desert environment that has allowed for the preservation of papyri and other organic materials. The rest of the Mediterranean is wetter, resulting in the loss of comparable writ-ten records. Some form of ritual manuals likely existed in many locations; the practitioners at Amathous relied on a prototype for the creation of magi-...

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Chapter 5 - Three Curses from Empúries and Their Social Implications

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pp. 219-253

As in the cities and villages that have occupied our interest so far, there is substantial evidence for magical activities at the site of Empúries, situated on the eastern coast of Hispania Citerior.1 Nine curse tablets have been discovered on the site, ranging from the fourth or third century BCE to the Roman period.2 Of these tablets, the most striking examples— both archaeologically and ...

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Chapter 6 - The Archaeology of Magic

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pp. 254-272

The archaeological evidence of magical practice at three sites in the Roman Mediterranean— Karanis, Amathous, and Empúries— reveals the rich complexity and wide distribution of ritual activity. The case studies investigated in these pages offer vignettes situated in particular times and places, permitting us to characterize some of the features of the phenomenon at each settlement. ...


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pp. 273-286


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pp. 287-326


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pp. 327-342

Image Plates

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pp. 360-377

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028689
E-ISBN-10: 0472028685
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472117796
Print-ISBN-10: 0472117793

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 20 B&W illustrations, 7 maps, 1 table
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: New Texts from Ancient Cultures
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OCLC Number: 846445917
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Materia Magica

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Magic, Ancient -- History.
  • Magic, Roman -- History.
  • Magic -- Egypt -- History -- To 1500.
  • Magic -- Cyprus -- History -- To 1500.
  • Magic -- Spain -- History -- To 1500.
  • Egypt -- Antiquities, Roman.
  • Cyprus -- Antiquities, Roman.
  • Spain -- Antiquities, Roman.
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