Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Faithful Protection: The Use of Scripture in Egyptian Amulets (7th – 12th Century CE)

A selected group of unpublished amulets from various collections in the world will be studied and edited.

Amulets have long been considered a religious byproduct, being studied within one sole religious or cultural tradition rather than as historical sources of cultural interaction. The numerous amulets preserved from early Islamic Egypt, have similarly remained mostly unedited and unstudied. It is, however, precisely the ubiquitous presence of amulets and the widespread belief in and use of the protective and curing powers they convey that make them such dynamic and receptive containers for cultural and religious interaction and exchange.  Editing a representative corpus of unedited Arabic amulets and using edited and unedited material produced by the Christians, Jews and Muslims, this project will use amulets as expressions of religious and cultural interaction to examine the evolution of shared and contrasting practices in early medieval Egypt. 

While forming a minority in Egypt during this period, Muslims’ daily interactions with the local population intensified through Arabisation, intermarriage and conversion over time, while new groups of immigrants were constantly added to the mix. Comparing the use of Scripture, a seemingly distinctive feature of Arabic amulets, in pre-Islamic Arabian and Egyptian, and Arabic, Coptic and Judeao-Arabic amuletic writings from Islamic Egypt, this project aims to expose the practices and traditions that the Arabs introduced in Egypt and how these changed in the next five centuries through contacts and relations with different groups and communities.

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