A major, and somewhat spine-tingling, archaeological discovery of a trove of ancient curse tablets was made recently in Athens‘ downtown neighborhood of Kerameikos (Ceramicus) by archaeologists from the German Archaeological Institute of Athens.
A total of thirty well-preserved curse tablets dating back to the Classical period (2,500 years ago) were found in an ancient well which was originally discovered back in 2016, when other everyday objects—but not the tablets—were found.
The ancient tablets have curses engraved on them which Athenian citizens would pay to have made against other people, a practice which was relatively common in ancient Greece.
Kerameikos full of ancient artifacts
The German Archaeological Institute, which has been conducting continuous research in the broader Kerameikos area since the early 1900s, has discovered more than 6,500 burial sites there, indisputably making Kerameikos the main burial site of ancient Athens.
The curse tablets were accidentally found in 2020 while archaeologists were investigating the supply of water to a 1st century BC bathhouse which was close to the well.
Ancient Greeks were known to use the method of engraving curse tablets and attaching them to wells or tombs in order to put a curse on someone with whom they had serious disputes.
Curse tablets and sorcery in ancient Athens
The tablets would be placed near tombs because they believed that the souls of the dead would carry these curses to the gods of the underworld.
Sorcery was not an accepted practice in Athens, so this was seen as an alternative for any who believed in the power of evil. Namely, the gods of the underworld, who would make the curse a reality, would be invoked.
Normally, people would place curses on people they either hated for personal reasons or with whom they perhaps had legal court disputes.
Apparently, athletes also tended to engage in this unique practice in an attempt to bring bad luck upon opponents.
Merchants were also known to curse the owners of rival businesses in an effort to incite good luck upon their stores while bringing bad luck to their competition.
According to archaeologists, in Ancient Greek curse tablets, the name of the individual who placed the curse was never mentioned; rather, it was only the name of the curse’s victim who was ever mentioned.