Photo of Drew Wilburn
  • Associate Professor of Classics
  • Chair of Classics
  • Irvin E. Houck Associate Professor in the Humanities


  • 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. 


  • 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.


Practical Magic

December 31, 2014
Professor Drew Wilburn finds archaeological evidence of magic in antiquity.