TITLE: Incantation bowl
CULTURE: Middle East
PERIOD: 6th- 8th Century AD
DIMENSIONS: Diameter 18 cm
PRICE: 1,500 euros
PROVENANCE: Private European collection, formed in the 1980s. Previously in an Israeli private collection, 1970s.
In antiquity man lived surrounded by terrifying, negative and fiendish forces which he tried to control to ensure a peaceful and harmonious cosmic order. A vast number of magic-religious mechanisms emerged related to this problem, and among them were incantation or demon bowls made in Mesopotamia in the Late Antiquity period.
Their texts show a variety of inherited concepts: biblical imagery, popular Judaic beliefs, remains of Mesopotamian religions and echoes of esoteric Hellenistic traditions. They encompassed "the best of all worlds" to ensure efficacy against demoniacal forces. All these bowls were written in Aramaic, Syriac or Mandaic. As well as being the subject of the texts, demons were sometimes portrayed on the bowls, usually as single anthropomorphic figures drawn in the centre of the interior of the bowls.
The bowls were buried face down, placed under the entrance to houses, in courtyards, in the corners of dwellings where someone had recently died and also in cemeteries.