In Antiquity and beyond, magical practices were an important part not only of religious ideas, but also of everyday life. In this, belief in the power of sigils and sign bearers determined the extent of the magic’s effect.
This sub-project focuses on magical signs or sequences and their connection with the carrier material. In order to research processes of formation and transformation, the project has taken a longue durée approach from the early high culture of the Egyptians via Greek and Roman Antiquity to the Christian Middle Ages. Through the collaboration of Egyptologists, papyrologists and Mediaeval archaeologists/historians of religion, a transdisciplinary perspective has been opened up that allows the topic to be integrated into a finely spun web that goes beyond the focuses of the individual disciplines. This should allow existing gaps in the research to be filled. Thus for instance any number of magical amulets have been documented and preserved in the field of Egyptology, but as of yet they have scarcely been worked on from an interdisciplinary perspective. And while papyrologists have documented a large number of magical papyri, these have only been examined for their syncretistic elements, with research into the Koine taking pride of place. A thematic examination of the link between magical sigils and material carriers remains to be done and will be targeted as part of this project, with special priority being given to amulets as sign carriers. Finally, Mediaeval research finds itself confronted with the special question of the transformation and duration of Antiquity. Although the Occident viewed itself in the Middle Ages as inheritor to Antiquity, at the same time Christianity led to a transformation of Antique magical practices and their signs. Although there are numerous finds of magical objects from mediaeval contexts, as yet only select groups have been submitted to typological and chronological examination, such as amulets from Anglo-Saxon early Mediaeval graves, Thebal rings, or Alsen gems. The links between sign and carrier as well as between Middle Ages and Antiquity are central questions that form a major focus of the sub-project.
The sub-project is part of the CRC 933 Material Text Cultures and not only discusses source-related research but also fundamental questions about the concepts of the sign, materiality, and presence.
The eras that are themed – the high culture of Egypt, Grecian and Roman Antiquity, and the Early and High Middle Ages – are being tackled within the framework of three doctoral dissertations.