Babylon has been associated with incantation bowls since the first discoveries in the mid-nineteenth century. The “Rawlinson” collection of eight incantation bowls (seven were written in Aramaic and one in Mandaic) was accessioned on 9 October 1851 by the British Museum and, according to Trustees Minutes, had been “found in a tomb at Babylon”. Austin Henry Layard does not seem to have been privy to this provenance information when three of these incantation bowls were transcribed and translated in his book, Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon. Instead he claimed that the bowls from the “Rawlinson” collection were “obtained at Baghdad, where they are sometimes offered for sale by the Arabs; but it is not known from what sites they were brought.” This misinformation has been perpetuated and no further information has come to light on the unusual findspot.
Amongst the vast collections of the Iraq Museum are numerous incantation bowls from Babylon, to which IM 9726 can now be added (Fig. 1). The entry in the Register of the Iraq Museum, dated 1927/1928, is scant, not even mentioning the script of the bowl: “Bowl with Incantation Text. Baked clay 12.5 × 6.5 [cm]. Presented by Mey Marian”. Thirteen years later, Cyrus Gordon included IM 9726 in his resumé of international collections of incantation bowls that appeared in the 1941 issue of Orientalia. It was one of the eleven incantation bowls Gordon recorded from the Iraq Museum collection, which he noted “has increased considerably since my last visit to Baghdad in 1935” and which he correctly predicted “should eventually become the largest and the best”. However, Gordon, who noted that IM 9726 had nine lines of Aramaic, only presented excerpts of its text. He did not supply any photograph or drawing of this incantation bowl nor any other information.