Material Text Cultures

Anett Rózsa

 Anett Rózsa

Centre for Ancient Studies: Department of Egyptology

Telephone:  +49 (0) 6221/ 542537


SFB 933 "Materiale Textkulturen", 
Sub-Project A03-UP1 "Ägyptische Praktiken zur Gewinnung von Gunst"


Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Ägyptologisches Institut
Voßstraße 2 (building 4410)
69115 Heidelberg


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Project description

The pursuit of success has always been an important drive of human action. Self-success, popularity, happiness, wealth and love are human desires. Humans have sought to achieve these ideals through various means including competing with each other.

This subproject will be a continuation of the second funding phase, reviewing its theories, questions, methods and results, etc., and re-analysing (magical) practices against opponents. In the second phase the focus was on the public enemy rituals of annihilation, while in the third phase private practices of gaining favour are going to be at the center of research. One way to outdo rivals is to cause them to fail a task or commit a social or religious taboo. In the antiquity, they resorted to enchantments and magical means. There were various sayings and objects that aim to damage the opponent.
In Egypt, an indirect path was often chosen by using techniques that would lead the rivals to a social or cultic taboo, thus expelling him from divine favour and society. Only a person, who was adapted to social and cultic requirements, in a religious sense, a “Pure” person, could hope for the assistance of the gods. In the analysed sources, there are invitations to Egyptian, Greek, Jewish, etc. deities, and they were used to gain favour by means of higher powers or beings.

In addition, one could enhance the magical power with various amulets, substances and plants. A major goal of this subproject is to analyse the archaeological artefacts with their “Changing materialisation” from the New Kingdom, Late-Period, Graeco-Roman, and Christian-Coptic periods, with some Arab-medieval and Jewish sources.  These artefacts included numerous actions of processes, such as intonation, copying, reading, listening, reusing, etc., which should also be considered.
These practices, texts and objects, which were initially reserved for the (oldest) Egypt, were passed on and mixed with "Foreign" or “Supraregional” elements in the Mediterranean from the Late Period and in Graeco-Roman times. The artefacts appear in different contexts, impressing each other in a transcultural and multicultural milieu. These artefacts and their practices were always perceived differently and had new (possible) cultural meanings in various material textual cultures.

Among the artefacts for gaining favour and popularity are many representatives of extensive categories, including: letters, (magical) papyri, (magical) manuals, theoretical works on stones, ostraca, amulets, funeral decoration, temple decoration. With Inscriptions in New Egyptian, Demotic, Greek, Latin and the combination of them (such as multilingual or "Socialised" Texts). This is why they belong to the interdisciplinarity fields of (antiquity) sciences.

The so-called magical gems or finger rings of late antiquity and their Egyptian motives with texts on them for gaining favour and success in every part of life, also make an important part of the corpus:  the artefacts with the so-called Patheos, Solar Child, Osiris, etc. will be considered again (quasi as a continuation of the first funding phase and a re-examination of its theories, methods, results etc.). Because of the (mostly) missing archaeological context of the magical gems, it is necessary to gather information from the meta-texts for these magical objects and to complete the real preserved artefacts (i.a. the gems, rings) and their practices with information from the texts.

These artefacts will be examined quantitatively with their (possible) practices, but one will also consider individual punctual practices. As a last step, these traditions for gaining favour and popularity in the Middle Ages were further changed. Although the practices of gaining favour and popularity are already known, their social backgrounds and aspects have not been (sufficiently) researched yet, although important insights into the religious and social structure are expected. This lack of elaboration is to be remedied with the present subproject, also with the main question: How magical practices of favour are linked to the real social and private dimensions of the users?


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