Magic Traditions During the Islamic Period

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An important update contributing to our understanding of magic traditions during the Islamic period (8th century CE):

In 2014 during excavation of an Early Islamic building they found a small metal case with a thin complexly folded metal plate inside. The metal sheet turned out to be silver mixed with gold and carry writing. Such amulets were well-known in Antiquity and served as magical protection. This find, however, was impossible to unfold without destroying it and the danger was that the sheet would never be read. Therefore, the scroll, after it had been removed from the metal case and conserved, was computer tomographed. Thereafter it was through the training of a philologist possible to digitally unfold the silver sheet with a technique which until now only had been applied to uncomplex folded metal sheets or to papyri, where the technique differs greatly. The results are stunning. The small silver sheet (4 cm by 10 cm) turned out to carry 17 lines of pseudo-Arabic script. Although the script cannot be read since it seems to be a pseudo script, it gives us a unique insight into the continuation of Semitic and Greco-Roman magic traditions well into the early Islamic period. The case of the non-destructive unfolding of the scroll shows in which ways the potential for understanding cultural phenomena through small contextualised objects can be unleashed when archaeological methods, philological expertise, natural science methods and digital imaging are combined. (Source: Agade).

Further details on the study and methodology are available here.

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