30 ancient 'curse tablets' discovered in excavated well in Athens' Kerameikos site

Friday, 07 February 2020 23:17
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Thirty ancient Greek tablets featuring curses in the form of invocations to the gods of the underworld, dated some 2,500 years ago, were recently discovered at the bottom of a well in the Kerameikos archaeological site, located northwest of the Acropolis in central Athens.

"The person who ordered the curse is never mentioned by name, only as the 'receiver'," German Archaeological Institute archaeologist Jutta Stroszeck, the head of the excavation, explained.

The well was uncovered in 2016 during an dig to discover the springs that supplied water for the baths near the Dipylon (two gates), the primary gate in the walls surrounding classical Athens.

Numerous other artifacts were also retrieved, including cups, wine jugs, clay candles, cookery, coins and even a wooden box.

The prime discovery, however, are the 30 "curse tablets", all made from lead, an indication that the purpose was to poison the water in the spring.

Publicly, so-called "black magic" was unacceptable in ancient Athens, with a prohibition against superstitious "spells" being scribed on tombs. As such, those wanting to invoke curse had to resort to more devious methods, such as tossing tablets with written curses into wells, according to Stroszeck.

Many scholars believe the ancient Greeks had four primary reasons for ever invoking a curse against someone, namely, to win a lawsuit; for business success; a victory in an athletic competitions, and finally, in matters of love and hate. In fact, professional "curse-writers" were employed, with the latter claiming metaphysical abilities. 

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