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Columns And Hieroglyphs: Magic Spolia In Medieval Islamic Architecture Of Northern Syria

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Chapter Summary

Medieval Islamic architecture in Northern Syria is unthinkable without the use of spolia. While the political and symbolic implications of reused architectural elements have increasingly raised the interest of Islamic art historians, this chapter examines the attribute of spolia: their magical qualities, a highly underestimated aspect, no doubt because the entire subject of magic is generally relegated to the field of Islamic folklore and popular religion. However, both ethnographic and medieval literary data strongly suggest that talismanic and apotropaic spolia were enormously important and also widespread in the Middle East. The chapter concentrates on the evidence from Northern Syria, an area unusually well represented in both the literary and ethnographic traditions. It concludes with the discussion of archaeological evidence that not only testifies to the significant magical role of spolia per se, but also provides with a rare insight into the process of choosing spolia.

Keywords: archaeological evidence; ethnographic traditions; magic spolia; medieval Islamic architecture; Northern Syria; talismanic spolia



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