Some 30 tablets found on the well’s floor were engraved with scripts of ancient curses and are thought to have been intended to “invoke the gods of the underworld“. The well ages back to at least 2,500 years, making the tablets relics of a forgotten Greek world.
Located in Kerameikos, an area of Athens, the well once served a the city’s main burial ground in ancient times.
The tablets, according to Hareetz, were ritual texts usually scratched into small lead objects.
Their purpose is generally regarded as intended to cause harm to others.
Dr. Jutta Stroszeck, director of the Kerameikos excavation on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens, told Hareetz: “The person that ordered a curse is never mentioned by name, only the recipient.”
The tablets were found inside an ancient well in Athens
The tablets are scrawled in ‘cursed’ messages
Dozens of other curses from the classical period – between 480 BCE and 323 BCE – have been found in previous excavations.
A large proportion of tablets were recovered from the tombs of those who had died in an untimely way and were therefore deemed suitable to carry the spell to the underworld.
Although one tablet had previously been found in a separate well, researchers say there is no good reason for the transition of casting spells shifting from graves to wells.
The well where the newest curses were found was first excavated in 2016 by a team led by Dr Stroszeck.
Other finds included a water nymph
Initially intended to investigate the water supply to a bathhouse near to the Dipylon city-gate, archaeologists soon came across a trove of artefacts inside the well.
The finds included cups, wine-mixing vessels, clay lamps, cooking pots, coins and a wooden trinket box.
The most exciting discovery, however, may be the 30 “cursed” tablets, all made from lead, which would have at the time poisoned the water.
“Black arts” or spells were frowned upon in Athens, with burial laws forbidding placing hexes in tombs.
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Some of the other items found in the well
The pedimented niche at the bottom of the well
Dr Stroszeck said one strategy to curtail this ban was to toss caused tablets into wells.
The scientists told of how her team found a small piece dedicated to the areas water nymph – in Greek mythology, a type of female spirit that presided over fountains, wells, springs, and other sources of water.
She said: “Water, and in particular drinking water, was sacred.
“In Greek religion, it was protected by nymphs who could become very mischievous when their water was treated badly.”
Egypt and Greece were closely aligned in ancient times
To make the nymphs happy, its were often thrown into the water as a sort of piece offering.
Furthermore, at the time, it was believed that water could act as the point of access to the underworld.
By throwing a curse into the well, it wold become “activated”, so thought those at the time.
Kerameikos archaeological site in Athens
Since 1913, some 6,500 burials have been uncovered by the German Archaeological Insitute in the Kerameikos area.
Graves from the classical period were ornate, marked with stelai, reliefs, sculpted animals, or marble vases.
Dr Stroszeck said: “In such areas, the presence of divine and the supernatural were experienced intensively, which is why cult and mantic (prophetic) activities are dense there.”
Published at Wed, 04 Mar 2020 04:10:00 +0000