UCL News


Medicine and magic

30 November 2006

Professor Mark Geller (UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies) has spent the last 12 months on an international exploration of the connection between ancient magic and medicine.

A renowned expert on Assyriology, Professor Geller is particularly interested in texts on magic and medicine composed in Sumerian, Akkadian, and Aramaic. These texts are found on cuneiform tablets, ceramic incantation bowls and in the Babylonian Talmud, which contains a large amount of information on therapies from 2nd-5th centuries AD.

As part of a project on 'Therapy in Babylonia', funded by the Wellcome Trust, Professor Geller produced a text edition of unpublished ancient medical texts and has an upcoming book on Babylonian medicine, to be published by Blackwell Publishing.

A volume on eye and nose disease texts, arising from Professor Geller's collaboration at the Collège de France, Paris, with two physicians who are also experts on ancient medicine, will appear as volume eight of the series 'Die Babylonisch-Assyrische Medizin' (de Gruyter, Berlin), which follows on from Professor Geller's own book on renal and rectal disease texts which was published as volume seven of the same series.

While in France, Professor Geller also gave four research seminars on 'Medicine and Magic', 'Everyday Life', 'Doctors and Charlatans' and 'How Does a Doctor Earn His Living?'

In April 2006, Professor Geller participated in a research group studying 'Occult Powers and Officiants in Near Eastern Cultures' at the Institute of Advanced Study of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and gave a seminar paper on the subject of 'Magic is Personal, Medicine is Impersonal.'


Professor Geller