Kasia Szpakowska
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Snake busters
Experiments in fracture patterns of ritual figurines
in Mummies, magic and medicine in ancient Egypt
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Clay figurines of rearing cobras have been found in Late Bronze Age settlements in ancient Egypt and the Levant. Their fabric, manufacture, style, breakage patterns, and context provide clues to their original use as votives, divine avatars, components of spells, or apotropaic devices to ward away demons. A series of experiental and experimental events were held to explore if they could add value to our understanding of the figurines. This paper focuses on two of these: a workshop on making figurines and fracture experiments performed on replica figurines. Because most of the figurines have been found fragmented, it could be suggested that this was the result of ritual as opposed to accidental breakage. However, no experiments have ever been carried out on figurines such as these to establish whether the cause of the breakage can be ascertained with any degree of certainty. This project aimed to replicate different destruction methods to reveal any recognisable fracture patterns. A professional potter produced the replicas by hand while controlled tests were performed by engineers and equipment within the Materials Research Centre at Swansea University. Modern technology such as high speed cameras were used to record the process and laser scanners were employed to see if in the future, the tests could be reproduced without the need for physical breakage.

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Mummies, magic and medicine in ancient Egypt

Multidisciplinary essays for Rosalie David


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