Roman 'Cursing' Tablets

Found by Gary Foulger

These are very rare and were found by Gary recently around Canvey.

‘Curse tablets’ are small sheets of lead, inscribed with messages from individuals seeking to make gods and spirits act on their behalf and influence the behaviour of others against their will. The motives are usually malign and their expression violent, for example to wreck an opponent’s chariot in the circus, to compel a person to submit to sex or to take revenge on a thief. Letters and lines written back to front, magical ‘gibberish’ and arcane words and symbols often lend the texts additional power to persuade. In places where supernatural agents could be contacted, thrown into sacred pools at temples, interred with the dead or hidden by the turning post at the circus, these tablets have survived to be found by archaeologists.


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  • Romans were also very superstitious about crossing water, fords, bridges and the like. Offerings and suggestions on the fate of enemies and rivals to the river gods are often found in comparatively large quantities near river crossings. Are there any clues as to why they might have been found on the Island ? Roman laws and customs forbade burials in any town or fort or even within buildings so they could be part of funeral “furniture”.

    By Dave Housden (19/04/2021)

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