Dave Fletcher reported some of his finds to us recently. We especially liked five curse tablets, or lead curses, which were found within an area of approximately one acre close to the site of Harrimere Church. Dave has had the large tablet identified by Helen Fowler and two of the small ones by Anne Taylor, both of Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; although none of these suspected Roman tablets has yet been opened.
Curse tablets, Latin defixio, were used by the Greeks and Romans to solicit the help of the Gods to provoke illness or even harm on their enemies. Curses were written on many materials although those that have survived seem to be inscribed on pewter or lead. Curse tablets were thrown into graves or nailed to temple walls, doors etc., hence defixio.
The writing on a lead curse found in 1934 in Telegraph Street, London is translated by the British Museum as ‘I curse Tretia Maria and her life and mind and memory and liver and lungs mixed up together, and her words, thoughts and memory; thus may she be unable to speak what things are concealed, nor be able…’. Another example, found in Leicester, was reported by the National Geographic on 5 December 2006 as cursing: ‘To the god Maglus, I give the wrongdoer who stole the cloak of Servandus. Silvester, Roimandus … that he destroy him before the ninth day, the person who stole the cloak of Servandus …’ A list of the names of 18 or 19 suspects follows’.
Bob Young is arranging to have one of these curses very carefully opened. I am sure he will let us know what it contains.
Dave also showed us a dagger fragment, an amber bead and some stone beads.