вторник, 11 февраля 2020 г.

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


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.

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]


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.

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens
Curse tablet in the shape of a liver, Kerameikos [Credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck/
German Archaeological Institute]
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.

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens
Model sarcophagus and figurine made of lead, found at the bottom of the Keremeikos well, 5th century BCE
[Credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck/German Archaeological Institute]


According to Dr Jutta Stroszeck, one way was to throw tablets with curses into wells. “Water especially its drinking, was sacred In Greek religion, it was protected by the Nymphs who could become very hostile if someone did not treat their water with respect.

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens
Curse against the newlywed Glykera, focusing on her vulva, by someone jealous of her marriage
[Credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck/German Archaeological Institute]
To make the Nymphs happy, gifts were often thrown into the water. At that time, it was believed that water gave access to the Underworld  and so the latter could be ‘activated’ by throwing a curse into the well”, said the archaeologist speaking to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens
The pedimented niche at the bottom of the well [Credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck/
German Archaeological Institute]


Archaeologists argue that there were four basic reasons for putting a curse on someone: to win a lawsuit, to succeed in business, to win sports and for matters concerning love and hate.

Ancient ‘curse tablets’ discovered down a 2,500-year-old well in Athens
Graves in the classical section of the Kerameikos necropolis [Credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck/
German Archaeological Institute]
Ancient Greeks usually hired “professionals” who wrote the curses, believing they had supernatural powers. By placing the tablet on a grave, they hoped that the curse would be carried to the Underworld by the souls of the deceased.

Source: German Archaeological Institute at Athens [trsl. Archaeology & Arts, February 10, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

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