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Abstract

This dissertation applies network theory and statistical methods to study inscribed magical gemstones dating from the first to fifth centuries CE. All of the attributes on these gems (material, color, image, and inscription) are arranged in a network data structure and clusters of statistically significant correlations are identified. Then, more traditional art-historical and linguistic approaches are leveraged to elucidate the meanings of these clusters and confirm or refute previous arguments about the inscriptional and iconographic associations on these gems. The core of the dissertation constitutes three case studies, each concerned with a different subset of magical gem: (1) gems with a cluster of attributes correlated with the name of the Jewish God, typically written as Iaô (Gk. Ιαω); (2) gems which use the material hematite, which includes the vast majority of gems with a schematic depiction of the uterus (the so-called uterine gems); and (3) gems whose central device on the obverse is the lion-headed serpent named Chnoubis. Scholars have often hypothesized a syncretistic Graeco-Egyptian solar religion when analyzing the inscriptions and iconography on each of these gem groups, but, in most cases, these case studies demonstrate that such a solar hypothesis not substantiated. Furthermore, it is argued that the solar hypothesis has little heuristic value and to the extent that solar valences can be identified for elements on these gems the solar hypothesis generally obfuscates more significant meanings.

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