Babylonian Medicine

Freie Universität Berlin

BAM 9 – Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues now available in open access

Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues

Medicine, Magic and Divination


We are happy to break the news that the ninth volume of ‘Die babylonisch-assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen’ (BAM) is now available for open access on the website of de Gruyter publishing:

It was edited and contributed by BabMed Senior PostDoc Researcher Ulrike Steinert and features further contributions by Francesca Rochberg and Irving L. Finkel as well as of course most of the BabMed team, namely Markham J. Geller, J. Cale Johnson, Strahil V. Panayotov and Eric Schmidtchen.

The reconstruction of ancient Mesopotamian medical, ritual and omen compendia and their complex history is still characterised by many difficulties, debates and gaps due to fragmentary or unpublished evidence. This book offers the first complete edition of the Assur Medical Catalogue, an 8th or 7th century BCE list of therapeutic texts, which forms a core witness for the serialisation of medical compendia in the 1st millennium BCE. The volume presents detailed analyses of this and several other related catalogues of omen series and rituals, constituting the corpora of divination and healing disciplines. The contributions discuss links between catalogues and textual sources, providing new insights into the development of compendia between serialization, standardization and diversity of local traditions. Though its a novel corpus-based approach, this volume revolutionizes the current understanding of Mesopotamian medical texts and the healing disciplines of “conjurer” and “physician”. The research presented here allows one to identify core text corpora for these disciplines, as well as areas of exchange and borrowings between them.

Legitimising Magic – Scientific colloquium at Marburg University, July 13/14, 2018

Altorientalistik at the Philipps-University of Marburg warmly invites to attend the scientific colloquium “Legitimising Magic” in Marburg, Germany, July 13–14.

“Magic” is one of the most colourful terms used to describe phenomena in the history of religions. From the beginning, magic acquired a distinct negative connotation. Early scholars of the history of religion used it intentionally to describe to describe certain knowledge, crafts and practises in ancient pre-Greek and modern indigenous cultures to stress the “otherness” of those cultures in comparison to that of the modern western world and its perceived foundation, the bible on the one hand and the Graeco-Roman world on the other. Despite the term’s obvious shortcomings as a just description of ancient and modern practices, it has never been dropped, probably for lack of a better term in modern western languages and in the respective ancient cultures. In Ancient Near Eastern studies, and by us, it is used faute de mieux, but with an explicit negation of any pejorative meaning, solely as a convenient, established term to describe an ancient belief system consisting of practices, incantations and rituals to influence the world…

Read more and workshop programme:  


Nils Heeßel (
Elyze Zomer (

Netanel Anor at RAI 2018, Innsbruck

Netanel Anor, member of the BabMed-seminar and PostDoc researcher for BabMed-PI Markham J. Geller, will give a talk at this year’s Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in Innsbruck on:

Babylonian Seers as Medical Practitioners (July 17th, 16:00-16:30)

Please find the full preliminary programme here.


Die Babylonisch-Assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen: BabMed at de Gruyter publishers

Monographs of the BabMed – Babylonian Medicine project will be made available as Open Access publications by de Gruyter publishers in the series initiated by Franz Köcher Die Babylonisch-Assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen.

For the announcement of the series at de Gruyter publishers’ homepage please click here.


Netanel Anor at Berner Altorientalisches Forum 2018

Netanel Anor, member of the BabMed-seminar and PostDoc researcher for BabMed-PI Markham J. Geller, will give a short talk at this year’s Berner Altorientalisches Forum (BAF) on:

The Extispicy Rituals: Theory and
Practice (Panel 3: Belief & Action, June 15th 13:45-14:00)

The Forum is a is a joint venture of the universities of Bern, Basel, Fribourg, Zürich and Geneva, the first meeting was in 2016.

Please find the full programme here.


A congress on the history of surgery in muslim heritage

The 6th international congress on history of medicine in muslim heritage will focus on the topic of surgery. The venue is the Medical School of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah University in Fez (Morocco) and the congress will take place from the 3rd to 6th of October 2018.

For more information and registration see the conference website.

Medicine in Bible and Talmud – Helsinki SBL/EABS international conference 2018

Medicine in Bible and Talmud
all sessions of the EABS Program Unit
Markham J. Geller and Lennart Lehmhaus (SFB 980 “Episteme in Motion”, Freie Universität Berlin)

The Conference Program Book  is available online.

Medicine in Bible and Talmud (EABS)

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Room: Room 403 – Fabianinkatu 26, Kielikeskus

Theme: Magico-medical Knowledge and Practices among Jews and Others in (Late) Antiquity, Part 1

Markham Geller, Freie Universität Berlin, Presiding
Mihi Yang, Claremont School of Theology
Comparison of Hezekiah’s Healing (Isaiah 38) (40 min)
Annette Weissenrieder, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Spittle in Biblical Texts and “Popular” and Rational Medicine (40 min)
Lennart Lehmhaus, Freie Universität Berlin
Textual Healing: Magico-medical Practices in Rabbinic Texts Reconsidered (40 min)



Medicine in Bible and Talmud (EABS)
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Room: Auditorium II – Fabianinkatu 33, Päärakennus

Theme: Magico-medical Knowledge and Practices among Jews and Others in (Late) Antiquity, Part 2

Annette Weissenrieder, Graduate Theological Union, Presiding
Rebecca Lesses, Ithaca College
Women and Ritual Healing in the Aramaic Incantation Bowls (40 min)
Markham Geller, Freie Universität Berlin
A Recipe is a Recipe: Medicine in the Talmud (40 min)
Rivka Elitzur-Leiman, Tel Aviv University
A Magic Recipe from the Book of Mysteries (Sefer Ha-Razim) in a Late-Antique Jewish Amulet (40 min)



Medicine in Bible and Talmud (EABS)
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Room: Room 21 – Fabianinkatu 33, Päärakennus

Theme: Magico-medical knowledge and practices among Jews and others in (Late) Antiquity III

Lennart Lehmhaus, Freie Universität Berlin, Presiding
Emunah Levy, Bar Ilan University
Magic and Rational Medicine in the Twelfth-Century Manuscripts of the Book of Medicines of Asaf the Physician (40 min)
Zahra Kazani, University of Victoria, Canada
Magic Embodied: Rethinking the Relationship between Script, Geometry, and Magical Ideas in the Kitab al-Diryaq (Book of Antidotes) (40 min)
Ferda Barut, Anadolu University
The Anargyroi (Physician Saints) in Early Christianity and Their Reflections on the Painting Programme of Byzantine Churches in Cappadocia (40 min)


This research unit and its panels at the EABS/SBL meetings are supported by the Collaborative Research Center – SFB 980 Episteme in Motion of Freie Universität Berlin and the German Research Foundation/Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Rome, June 4, 2018: Int. Conference on the Use of the Five Senses

Sensing the Past.
Detecting the Use of the Five Senses in Ancient Contexts
Odeion, Museo dell’Arte Classica, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia Sapienza Università di Roma June 4, 2018


Excavated latrines reveal information on parasites and diet in the Ancient Near East and Medieval Europe

Through a novel approach of shotgun DNA sequencing, a group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen has analysed the content of excavated human feces from Denmark, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Jordan and Bahrain. The only antique samples were those from Bahrain (5-400 B.C.E.). All others date from the 7th century C.E. to as late as the 19th century C.E.

The study served not only as an indicator as to which parasites humans in the past suffered from but also to their diet and the animal exploitation history of people in the areas relevant to the study.

The article is freely available through this link:


Drug use in the ancient Near East

The Science magazine has published an article on recent residue analyses that suggest the use of psychoactive drugs in the ancient Near East such as opium and cannabis. While there is of course a good chance that these drugs were used in a ritualistic context, a medical use seems to be just as likely.