Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens

Oval lead "coffin" with a spell against Pytheas & co., ordered by Pytheas' opponent in an Athenian law court
[Credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck/German Archaeological Institute]

Texts are written on the tablets invoking the gods of the Underworld to inflict harm on other people. “The person who ordered a curse is never mentioned by name; only the ‘recipient’”, explains Dr Jutta Stroszeck of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens, who heads the Kerameikos research.

The well was first discovered in 2016, during an archaeological excavation to investigate the water supply of baths near Dipylon. The excavation had also brought to light numerous objects, including cups, containers for mixing wine, earthen candles, pots, coins and a wooden box.

The most exciting discovery however were probably the 30 “cursed” tablets, all made of lead, which would have contaminated the water. So-called “black magic” was not accepted at that time in ancient Athens and it was forbidden to write spells on the graves. This meant that anyone who wished to invoke a curse would have to find other methods of doing so.

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