Andrew (Drew) Wilburn

  • Professor of Classics
  • Chair of Archaeological Studies


  • BS, Randolph-Macon College, 1996
  • MB, Univ Maryland College Park, 1998
  • MA, University Michigan Ann Arbor, 2004
  • PhD, University Michigan Ann Arbor, 2005


Drew Wilburn (Andrew T. Wilburn) has been teaching at Oberlin since 2005. His research focuses on the archaeology of ancient magic in the Roman Mediterranean and village life in Graeco-Roman Egypt.

While at Oberlin, Drew has taught courses in ancient history, Greek and Latin, including Magic and Mystery in the Ancient World, the Ancient City, Wild and Crazy Emperors, Egypt after the Pharaohs, the History of Greece, the History of Rome, the Roman Historians (in Latin), and Thucydides and Lysias (in Greek).  

As a PhD student at the University of Michigan, he was a regular member at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and a Fulbright fellow to Cyprus. Drew has excavated at a number of ancient sites in the Mediterranean, including the Athenian Agora, Corinth, Tel Kedesh, and Caesarea in Israel, and Abydos in Egypt.

Drew’s book, Materia Magica : The Archaeology of Magic in Egypt, Spain and Cyprus came out in paperback in 2016. Special thanks are owed to the talented and dedicated OC undergraduates who worked with Drew as research assistants: Ploy Keener ’09, Chris Motz ’09, Eush Tayco ’09, Gabe Baker ’1), Lauren Clark ’11, Laura Wilke ’11, and Emily Thaisrivongs ’12.

Focusing on three sites in the Mediterranean—Karanis in Egypt, Amathous on Cyprus, and Empúries in Spain—Drew attempts to discover magic in the objects of daily life from antiquity. He suggests that individuals frequently turned to magic in their daily lives, particularly in times of crisis.

Local forms of magic may have varied, and the only way that we can find small town sorcerers is through the careful examination of archaeological evidence.

Drew is excited to be embarking on a number of new projects, some of which involve students in his research. Recently, he has been studying the role that magic plays in architecture, investigating the placement of protective features in houses and other buildings.

He is thrilled to be working on a collaborative project with former student Ryan Reynolds ’14, and current students Miranda Rutherford, Samantha Mater, and Olivia Fountain to create a GIS map of the site of Karanis in Egypt, excavated by the University of Michigan from 1924-1935.

Preliminary results of the work ias available on the Karanis Housing Project website. 

Fall 2024

Elementary Greek — GREK 101
Magic and Mystery in the Ancient World — CLAS 201
Senior Project — ACHS 300

Spring 2025

Elementary Greek II — GREK 102
History of Rome — CLAS 104
History of Rome — HIST 129
Senior Project — ACHS 300


Drew Wilburn Visited Students at Oberlin Elementary School

September 29, 2022

Drew Wilburn continued his work with the third grade classes at Oberlin Elementary School, sharing information about archaeology. For the past 5 years, with a small pandemic break, Professor Wilburn has worked with the third grade team as they explore the IB curriculum, "Who we are in Space and Time." Students participated in the analysis of a "Mystery Cemetery," which helps the third graders analyze a series of "graves" from a fictional culture, based in part on teaching tools from the Archaeological Institute of America.

Drew Wilburn is collaborator on Books of Karanis Project; is principal investigator of the Karanis Housing Project

July 21, 2021

Professor of Classics Drew Wilburn will be a collaborator on the Books of Karanis Project, for which C. Michael Sampson, University of Manitoba is the Principal Investigator. 

The Books of Karanis was recently awarded a $94,000 Insight Grant from Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council. The Books of Karanis will contextualize seventy-four fragmentary books from the ancient site of Karanis, a Greek, Roman, and Egyptian settlement occupied from around 200 BCE  to 600 CE. The collaborative project brings together the research expertise of papyrologists, literary specialists, and archaeologists to reconstruct ancient Greek literary culture. The research project is investigating who read these texts, how they might have read them, and in what contexts reading took place.

Wilburn will bring archaeological expertise through his work as the principal investigator of the Karanis Housing Project, which has been developing a digital map of the archaeological site and populating the map with all of the finds from the University of Michigan excavations (1924-1935). The Karanis Housing Project includes current student research collaborators Emily Hudson '22, Grace Burns '23, Elliot Diaz '23, Henri Feola '23, and many former Oberlin students. 

Drew Wilburn Quoted in Article

August 19, 2019

Professor of Classics Drew Wilburn was quoted in an article in Atlas Obscura about the recent discovery of ritual objects and amulets at the site of Pompeii.

Drew Wilburn Awarded Franklin Research Grant

February 12, 2019

Associate Professor of Classics Drew Wilburn was awarded a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society to support research in the United Kingdom on his project, "Architectural Magic and Social Space in the Roman Mediterranean." The project analyzes the myriad and overlapping methods that individuals and communities employed to control risk and protect themselves, their children, and property from seen and unseen dangers, including physical barriers, architectural elements, gestures, objects worn on the body, and images built into living spaces. Wilburn will be conducting research at the Wellcome Library, the British Museum, and the Senate House Library.

Drew Wilburn Gives Invited Lectures in London

September 18, 2017

Drew Wilburn, associate professor of classics, archaeology, and humanities, gave two invited lectures in London during May 2017. At the British Museum, he presented his research on the archaeological findspots of magical papyri in Egypt, entitled "Investigating the Magical Papyri as Artifacts." This work is part of a larger project related to archaeological context and spell manuals that were used by specialists during the late Roman and early Christian periods (3rd-6th centuries CE). He also gave a public lecture at Treadwell's Bookshop, entitled "Archaeology of Spells: A Case Study from Karanis, Egypt." This lecture presented Drew's research on a magical love spell and a cache of more than 80 inscribed bones found during the University of Michigan's excavations at the Roman period site of Karanis.

Drew Wilburn Presents Paper

November 19, 2015

On October 3, Drew Wilburn, associate professor and chair of classics, chair of archaeological studies, and Irvin E. Houck associate professor in the humanities, presented an invited paper entitled "Ritual Personnel and the Curse Tablets from Cyprus" at the conference From Roman to Early Christian Cyprus, co-sponsored by the Harvard Divinity School, the A. G. Leventis Foundation and Princeton University.


This Week in Photos: A Walk in the Park

September 25, 2020

On any given day a walk through Tappan Square could lead to a performance, art exhibit, or even a wedding day photo shoot. On this day the park is many things for many people.

Teaching in the New Normal: Professor Drew Wilburn

April 14, 2020

These days, the classroom has taken on new meaning for both faculty and students at Oberlin. In this edition of Teaching in the New Normal, Wilburn explains how an activity in one of his courses took on new meaning during this time of transition.