A Magic Square of Vowels

  • Roy Kotansky
Part of the Papyrologica Coloniensia book series (AWAW)


In January of 1541 at Vars, a community situated about eight miles north of Angoulême, diggers discovered an ancient stone sepulchre containing a coffin covered with a lid of tortoise-shell (Gruterus [1603]: xxi; Kirchmann 1625: 504f.). Inside, the excavators found a lead and stone coffin along with scattered pyxides-lids. The lead coffin itself had been sealed shut by four iron bindings. The coffin contained remains of a human body, still covered with a gossamer-like skin which, after exposure to the light and air, immediately evaporated, leaving only the bones. Resting upon the chest of the skeletal remains lay a rolled-up lamella of pure gold. A small bronze coin was also found hanging from the skeleton. The coin provides us with little help in dating, as the earlier reports simply describe it in contemporary nomenclature (Kirchmann 1625: 504 “semiducatum Gallicum;” Gruterus [1603]: xxi “semiducatum nostrum”).


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  1. Janus Gruterus, Inscriptiones antiquae totius orbis Romani... (Heidelberg, n.d [1603]), p. xxi; Johannis Kirchmann, De funeribus Romanorum libri quatuor cum appendice (Lubecae, 1625) III, §24, pp. 504f.Google Scholar
  2. U. F. Kopp, Palaeographia critica (Mannheim, 1829), II/iii, §254, p. 303Google Scholar
  3. F. Lenormant, “Note sur un amulette chrétien conservé au Cabinet des Médailles,” in: Charles Cahier & Arthur Martin, edd. Mélanges d’Archéologie d’histoire et de littérature, III (Paris, 1853), pp. 150f., p. 152 (note also, “Corrections et Additions,” idem, IV, p. 292)Google Scholar
  4. M. Siebourg, Bonner Jahrbücher 103 (1898), p. 135f., Nr. 7 (for ref., cf. 4)Google Scholar
  5. H. Leclercq, art. “Amulettes,” in Dictionnaire d’Archéologie chrétienne et de Liturgie I/2 (1907), p. 1794.Google Scholar

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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 1994

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  • Roy Kotansky

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