'Cursed' 2,500-year-old tablets found at bottom of well

'Cursed' 2,500-year-old tablets found at bottom of well

Archaeologists have discovered mysterious tablets at the bottom of a 'poisoned well' which was once the site of an ancient burial ground.

Around 30 tablets were found, all of which were inscribed with text relating to archaic curses involving "the gods of the underworld".

The well is thought to be at least 2500 years old and is located in Kerameikos, an area of Athens.

Curse tablets were ritualistic scripts which were engraved into small objects made of lead. The purpose of these tablets was usually to cause harm to others.

Dr. Jutta Stroszeck, director of the Kerameikos excavation on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens, stated that: “The person that ordered a curse is never mentioned by name, only the recipient”.

Similar tablets have been discovered in previous excavations, hailing from between 480 BCE and 323 BCE.

Many of these tablets were found in the tombs of those who had died in an untimely manner, as their tombs were considered suitable to carry the curse to the underworld.

“Black arts” or spells were frowned upon in Athens, with burial laws forbidding placing hexes in tombs.

A strategy which people used to avoid this ban was to throw the cursed tablets into wells, which they thought would ‘activate’ the curse by using the tablets as a peace offering for the water nymphs who resided there.

Learn more about Ancient Greece on our Essential Archaeology of Greece tour, where we visit the remains of countless cities, fortifications, temples and monuments, scattered throughout Greece.


Added: 6th March 2020

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