This week, it’s time to move away from Egypt and Rome, and hear instead from an up and coming Assyriologist, Genevieve Le Ban, and her research on witchcraft and sorcery…
Hello! My name is Genevieve Le Ban and I am a second-year candidate in the Master of Research (MRes) programme at Macquarie. My experiences at Macquarie have been rather varied, initially starting in Bachelor of Arts in ancient Greece, before moving into, and completing, my degree in Egypt and the Near East in 2017. In 2018 I completed a Graduate Certificate in Ancient History where I dabbled in various ancient studies. Once again, after completing this, I moved into a different study – strictly involving ancient Near Eastern research (sometimes referred to as Assyriology) for my Masters. I have a great love for the ancient world and have never been satisfied staying in one area of research (until now). Throughout my experiences at Macquarie I have been privileged to travel around the world for archaeological work in Croatia, Israel, and Greece as well at home here in Sydney.
My working thesis title is “(Let) the witch be a sorceress”, An Examination into the Notions of Witchcraft and Sorcery in the Old Babylonian Period. My research is an investigation into how witchcraft, sorcery and their practitioners were understood and socially received in the Old Babylonian period (c. 1900-1500 BCE). I chose this specific period as a case study due to Hammurabi’s Code, which explicitly references witchcraft as being illegal. This completely sparked my interest and since then I’ve been reading about a variety of witch-y things, sometimes with the involvement of demons! A key element of my thesis is an examination of the words we use to convey the notions of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘sorcery’, as well as their practitioners in both a modern context as well as in an ancient context. My supervisors for this project are Professor Javier Álvarez-Mon and Associate Professor Ronika Power, both of whom have been really supportive and wonderful in the craziness of 2020!
In a discussion with some friends over which ancient Mesopotamian city was the best, my friend offered this incredible line about Babylon; “Nah, it’s like Paris, overrated and full of tourists. It’s the Ancient Rome of the Near East”. We did all agree, however, that Mari was pretty epic.