2400-year-old curse tablet found in a grave

The content of a young woman’s grave found in Athens (Greece) revealed five lead tablets with ancient curses written on them. Four of the tablets were engraved with curses that invoked the names of “chthonic” (underworld) gods, asking them to target four different husband-and-wife tavern keepers in Athens. The fifth tablet was blank and likely had a spell or incantation recited orally, the words spoken over it. All five tablets were pierced with an iron nail, folded and deposited in the grave. The grave would have provided the tablets a path to such gods, who would then do the curses’ biddings, according to ancient beliefs.

Tablet with an inscribed curse (by Live Science)
Tablet with an inscribed curse (by Live Science)

The grave was excavated in 2003 by archaeologists with Greece’s Ephorate for Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. The grave was located North-east of the Piraeus, the port of Athens. The woman buried in the grave might have had nothing to do with the curses or tavern keeping, perhaps she died at the time when someone wanted to cast these curses on others in the same community – the archaeologists suggest.

Detail of one of the tablets (by O)
Detail of one of the tablets (by Live Science)

(after Live Science)

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