Virtual Magic Bowl Archive

The Virtual Magic Bowl Archive (VMBA) is a collaborative project involving scholars from Israel and the United Kingdom.

The VMBA was initially established by Dr Dan Levene and hosted by the University of Southampton from 2009. In 2014, it was transferred to the University of Exeter, to be continued under the supervision of Dr Siam Bhayro.

The aim of the VMBA is to provide online resources for those engaged in the study of Aramaic incantation bowls from Sasanian Mesopotamia, perhaps the most important primary source we have for studying the everyday beliefs and practices of the Jewish, Christian, Mandaean, Manichaean, Zoroastrian and Pagan communities on the eve of the Islamic conquests.

While we envisage more features being added over time, the initial resources will focus on some 650 texts that comprise part of the Schøyen Collection, which are currently being prepared for publication by an international team of scholars under the supervision of Professor Shaul Shaked.

The first published volume of incantation bowls from the Schøyen Collection is:

S. Shaked, J.N. Ford and S. Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls Volume One (Magical and Religious Literature of Late Antiquity 1; Leiden: Brill, 2013)

For those interested in learning more about the Aramaic incantation bowls, Dr Levene's booklet Curse or Blessing: What's in the Magic Bowl?‌ can be downloaded as a PDF.

Browse the VMBA photographic archive.

See also Pre-Islamic Incantation Bowls for details of our research on the Schøyen Collection’s Aramaic incantation bowls.