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date: 20 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In antiquity, natural and artificial light was manipulated to illuminate dark spaces. Its primary and most significant use, however, may have been amuletic. This chapter explores several unique and in some instances forgotten archaeological small finds that hint at the use of symbolic light in tombs, sanctuaries, and building foundations. These ‘photoamulets’ were linked to metaphoric light both in word, image, and form. They were used for protection against darkness where evil spirits lurked. In a funerary context, photoamulets safeguarded the deceased person from non-remembrance and anonymity. They did so by invoking the apotropaic powers of light which ensured rebirth and eternal life. Mirror plaques, clay lamps with retrograde script, lamp-shaped pendants, and tokens were the most popular types adopted by Jews, Samaritans, and Christians in the late antique Near East.

Keywords: amulet, lamp, late antiquity, light, magic, Near East, sacred space, symbol

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