Classifying The Scripts of Aramaic Incantation Bowls

Said Naamneh, Nour Atamni, Boraq Madi, Shoshana Boardman, Daria Vasyutinsky Shapira, Irina Rabaev, Jihad El-Sana

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Aramaic incantation bowls are a magical object commonly used in Sasanian Mesopotamia (the region that includes modern-day Iraq and Iran) between the 4th and 7th centuries CE. These bowls were typically made of clay and inscribed with incantations in three dialects of Aramaic, the languages widely spoken in the region then. This paper focuses on bowls written in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. The purpose of these bowls was to protect the homes of their owners from evil spirits and demons. The inscriptions on the bowls were most often written in a spiral fashion and often included the names of various demons and invocations of protective spirits and angels, alongside the names and family relationships of the clients, Biblical quotations, and other interesting material. The bowls were buried upside down beneath the floor of a home so that the incantations faced downward towards the underworld. This study tackles the problem of automatic classification of the script style of incantation bowls. To this end, we prepare and introduce a new dataset of incantation bowl images from the 4th to 7th centuries CE. We experiment with and compare several Siamese-based architectures, and introduce a new Multi-Level-of-Detail architecture, which extracts features at different scales. Our results establish baselines for future research and make valuable contributions to ongoing research addressing challenges in working with ancient artifact images.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHIP 2023 - Proceedings of the 2023 International Workshop on Historical Document Imaging and Processing
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9798400708411
StatePublished - 25 Aug 2023
Event7th International Workshop on Historical Document Imaging and Processing, HIP 2023, held in conjunction with ICDAR 2023 - San Jose, United States
Duration: 25 Aug 202326 Aug 2023

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Conference7th International Workshop on Historical Document Imaging and Processing, HIP 2023, held in conjunction with ICDAR 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose


  • Aramaic Language
  • Classification
  • Historical Bowl
  • Siamese
  • Vision Transformer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Software


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