Magic, Medicine and Fraud

David Johnson


The Nabataean role in the trade of frankincense and myrrh for use as incense and in perfumes is well-documented. Not often discussed is the role the Nabataeans played in the trade of these same products and other plant products such as the rock rose in medicine and magic. The major items traded through and produced at Petra used in magic and medicine were frankincense, myrrh, bdellion, balanos oil, gum laudanum, iunctus odoratus, terebinth resin, and juniper berries. In this paper, the role of the Nabataeans in this trade is examined by looking at the literary evidence from ancient writers such as Dioscorides, Pliny, and Galen, and the Greek magical papyri; a botanical survey of present day plants found at Petra; and the archaeological evidence from Nabataean sculpture, painting and pottery


Nabataean trade, plant products, magic, medicine

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