CC-90017-M, the Umm Al-Hafriyat basin

From: "Rob Shankly" <rob.ludo@…>
Date: Mon Mar 13, 2006 9:11 pm
Subject: Re: [dglist] The Castaigne collection - Two Other Items


The collection would be incomplete without at least one Demon Bowl:

Earthenware bowls from Persia, dated to 700AD (give-or-take a century), inscribed in various Aramaic dialects. These were traps for evil spirits, perhaps intended as protective devices but more likely used as weapons- trap your ghost/demon/djinn then release it near the intended victim, or bury it near his house.

List of collections and dealers:


ITEM #90017-M The Umm Al-Hafriyat Basin

A pair of nested earthenware bowls, roughly circular, 33.5cm (13") in diameter and 17cm (6.5") tall. The bowls are sealed together with pitch around their rim, which is chipped in several places. Together the bowls weigh 690g (1.5lbs). The inner bowl is shallower than the outer by approximately 5cm (2"), so there is a 3-4cm gap (approx 1.5") between the two. When shaken the bowls rattle, revealing the presence of one or more objects within this space.

The inner bowl is cracked across its width and it is likely that it would separate into two or more pieces if removed from the outer. It is formed of pale clay, inscribed around the edge and sides in Mandaic script. The bottom of the bowl shows a demonic figure bound with chains. Essentially humanoid, the creature appears to have four arms and an enormous mouth opening vertically in the centre of its face.

Although marred at several points by the above mentioned cracks, the text is largely legible and might be deciphered. A partial translation, believed to date from the 1920s (author unknown) reads as follows: "I <unclear- Napha?> son of Mednet daughter of Surn adjure you demon of earth and rivers, curse you in the dust of Anamrazi cloaked father <ancestor?> lest you turn from this task, may you never know peace from war, from famine of soil, from disputation <?> of the body, from disputation of thoughts, from evil thorns, I Napha <?> son of Mednet daughter of Surn have made you swear and adjure you in the name of Anamrazi cloaked father <?> and in the name of the Bloodless <?> Stars Uncountable and in the name of the Fire the Dwells <unclear- within?> that you shall beset and becurse Amadun Son of Bethelmet daughter of Mednet daughter of Surn, whose blood you have, that you shall beset and becurse Amadun Son of Bethelmet daughter of Mednet daughter of Surn, whose <teeth-?> you have, for he Amadun Son of Bethelmet daughter of Mednet daughter of Surn is a thief most acursed, and you shall devour the hands of his arms, and < strike? hit?> the bones from his body, burst the eyes from his head, that he Amadun Son of Bethelmet daughter of Mednet daughter of Surn shall be cast into <the lands under?> to dwell in sickness, and this you will do for your oath, and in fear of Anamrazi cloaked father <?> and the Fire the Dwells Within <?>, and the <hate-?> of the Bloodless, so say I Napha <?> son of Mednet daughter of Surn". This appears to be a ritual curse enacted by Napha against Amadun, his nephew, who is described as a thief.

The bottom bowl shows signs of exposure to heat, with some scorching and a thick deposit of oily soot. The bottom bowl is engraved with two sets of spiralling marks resembling characters, however this is believed to be a pseudo-script and is much rougher in appearance than the Mandaic script on the inner bowl. Certainly it is in no known language, and suggests that the two bowls were not created by the same person. The presence of pseudo script is surmised to be because the manufacturer was illiterate, or perhaps because the text was only a secondary component of the bowl.


Rob — If Swallowed Seek Medical Advice

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