The University of Arizona
Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

Symbolae Sacrae: Symbolic Formulae for Protection and Adoration within the Quarries of Gebel el-Silsila

Maria Nilsson


Within the quarries of Gebel el-Silsila is a vast amount of unique symbolic representations: stylized iconographic and pseudo-scripted signs and marks that to some extent signify deities and their protection against demons, evil and mishaps. Like written protective formulae, these marks were placed within the quarries to symbolically safekeep the ancient workers and express gratitude once the work had been completed. This paper aims to present a selection of quarry marks that can be associated with the metaphorical world of the ancients (chiefly early Roman), with focus on assigned protective deities, the ever-assimilating daemon Shaï, apotropaic figures, and marks used for protection, adoration, respect, and gratefulness. It is an attempt to broaden the perspective of traditionally accepted ancient apotropaia and to incorporate superstitious representations communicated by a group of hardworking quarrymen at Gebel el-Silsila. The material presented is based on preliminary conclusions.

Full Text: