This exciting new study draws on objects excavated or discovered in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century at three Mediterranean sites. Through the three case studies, Materia Magica identifies specific forms of magic that may be otherwise unknown. It isolates the practitioners of magic and examines whether magic could be used as a form of countercultural resistance. Andrew T. Wilburn discovers magic in the objects of ancient daily life, suggesting that individuals frequently turned to magic, particularly in crises. Local forms of magic may have differed, and Wilburn proposes that the only way we can find small-town sorcerers is through careful examination of the archaeological evidence.
Studying the remains of spells enacted by practitioners, Wilburn's work unites the analysis of the words written on artifacts and the physical form of these objects. He situates these items within their contexts, to study how and why they were used. Materia Magica approaches magic as a material endeavor, in which spoken spells, ritual actions, and physical objects all played vital roles in the performance of a rite.
Materia Magica develops a new method for identifying and interpreting the material remains of magical practice by assessing artifacts within their archaeological contexts. Wilburn suggests that excavations undertaken in recent centuries can yield important lessons about the past, and he articulates the ways in which we can approach problematic data.
About the Author
Andrew T. Wilburn is Associate Professor of Classics at Oberlin College.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations xiii
Chapter 1 Finding Magic in the Archaeological Record 12
Chapter 2 Materia Magica 54
Chapter 3 Identifying the Remains of Magic in the Village of Karanis 95
Chapter 4 Practitioners and Craft at Amathous, Cyprus 169
Chapter 5 Three Curses from Empúries and Their Social Implications 219
Chapter 6 The Archaeology of Magic 254
Appendix 1 The Excavations at Karanis 275
Appendix 2 Bones from Karanis Areas 262 and 265 284