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13 Things 2009

13 Things 2008

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

Search Brown



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

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Graeco-Egyptian Uterine Amulets

My project is going to focus on the physicality and technical choices surrounding the Graeco-Egyptian uterine amulets. These amulets usually range from about a cm to a few cms tall. They are typically carved out of red haemetite or red carnelian and covered with magical signs, iconography and inscriptions. Although possible to discern fairly clearly in blown-up photographs, in person these carvings are minute and do not stand out very clearly from the background of the stone.

How were these carvings created? How were they viewed and interacted with by people in the ancient (and modern) world? What relevance does the stone itself, its feel and its color have to these amulets? Why are they so small in the first place? I am going to explore these issues in greater or lesser depth by pulling in analytical approaches drawn from some of the class readings as well as outside sources. At present I am thinking about using Tilley for exploring the physicality of the stone, Shanks and a few sources on Mesopotamian Cylinder seals for social and technical issues surrounding the amulets production and consumption, and Doug Bailey and others on issues of miniaturization. The color of the stone is also an interesting question and here I will supplement Tilley with ancient sources, such as Dioscorides and Pliny which talk about color and properties of stones. A further issue I would like to think about is the possible role of the amulets in ritual and whether or not they can be viewed as ritual objects if ritual is primarily conceived of as a group- integrating practice involving special time scales and spectacular events/settings.

I am currently working on getting together a collection of modern photographs of the amulets known to me. Should this be assembled before the project is due it might also be interesting to do a flash gallery/ collage showing the amulets at different levels of magnification side by side, to highlight the different levels of information that can be pulled out at different visual scales and with various digital manipulations.

Posted at Oct 02/2008 05:19PM:
chris witmore: Hi Kate, We have discussed themes related to the miniature, the body and media. I would love to discuss some other issues on the topic when you have the time.