Mesopotamian Double-Jar Burials and Incantation Bowls

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Ortal-Paz Saar



The corpus of late antique Babylonian incantation bowls comprises a class of double-bowl sets, consisting of two bowls facing each other, fastened together with bitumen. Occasionally, such bowl sets have been found to contain inscribed egg shells or human bones. The double-bowl configuration is highly reminiscent of the double-jar burial practice attested in Mesopotamia from the second millennium to the sixth century BCE. The double-jar (or double-pot) burial involved placing the deceased between two wide-mouthed jars, occasionally joining them with bitumen at the rims. This article explores the double-bowl configuration and suggests a connection between double-jar burials and the later ritual artifacts of the Sasanian period. The double-bowl sets attached with bitumen may have originated on analogy to the ancient burial practice, intending symbolically to bury evil entities or human adversaries.

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