A Corpus of Syriac Incantation Bowls.

Author:Morony, Michael
Position::Book review

A Corpus of Syriac Incantation Bowls. By MARCO MORIGGI. Magical and Religious Literature of Late Antiquity, vol. 3. Leiden: Brill, 2014. Pp. xvii + 257, illus. $163.

Aramaic incantation texts written on ceramic bowls are an important source for the linguistic and cultural history of Mesopotamia at the end of Late Antiquity. There are three varieties of Aramaic found written in their own distinctive scripts on these bowls: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (the greatest number), Mandaic, and Syriac (the smallest number).

Moriggi has engaged in a thorough re-edition of forty-nine Syriac bowl texts that were originally published between 1853 and 2012. New photographs have been used wherever possible, and over sixty percent of published Syriac bowl texts were re-edited with the help of new images, especially a series of high-resolution color photographs taken by Dr. Matthew Morgenstern of the University of Tel Aviv (the reproductions in the text are in black and white). On this basis Moriggi proposes new readings and/or corrections. The Syriac texts are transliterated into Latin script when they are clearly legible, but without short vowels because there is no trace of any system of supra- or sub-segmental vocalization in the texts themselves. The texts are provided with an English translation that is as literal as possible and organized in a numerical order that is pretty much the same as their chronological order of publication (earliest to most recent).

Moriggi is concerned to standardize the edition of Syriac incantation bowls. In each case he systematically provides the object's present location, its physical dimensions, its provenance if known, whether its script is Estrangela or the so-called "Manichaean," the arrangement of the text, its number of lines, the presence of drawings or other signs, the clients, the contents of the text, references to parallels in other texts, editions of the text, notes to studies about a philological aspect of the text, photograph(s), and notes to the text that tend to focus on linguistic and orthographical issues.

He regards the Syriac language of the incantation bowls to be an organic entity without any significant sub-divisions. He also tends to see the features of these texts as being varieties of Syriac rather than as borrowed from Mandaic or Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, arguing that "languages in contact ... give rise to parallel developments and similar phenomena" (p. 8). His working hypothesis is to consider...

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