Discoveries of 30 Curse Tablets show how Athenian Bathhouse Well became a Chute to The Underworld

A huge number of curse tablets were found in a well at the Athenian Kerameikos.

Discoveries of 30 Curse Tablets show how Athenian Bathhouse Well became a Chute to The Underworld

A huge number of curse tablets were found in a well at the Athenian Kerameikos. They had been undiscovered since the fourth to third centuries BCE. Curse tablets found in this region typically date back to the 5th or 4th centuries BCE. They are usually found in tombs, so it is not surprising that these curse tablets were found in a well.

Researchers who were involved in the discovery suspect that there was a law change. Guards prevented people from accessing Athens' tombs, where they would most likely have preferred to curse. It's just so frustrating when this happens.

Therefore, people seeking revenge had to think of other places they could cast their curses, and a public water source may have been the best option. People in search of a good curse may have thought that wells would plunge into the ground, and that this was an alternate route to the underworld.

"The findingpot in the bathhouse well could be related to curse tablets that were in the past preferably placed in specific types of tombs but were now dropped in wells that were considered another way to access the underworld," Dr Jutta Stroeck, German Archaeological Institute (DAI), told IFLScience.

"The change takes place after Demetrius of Phaleron's reorganization of the Athenian Necropolis in 317/307 CE, greatly impeding the performance magic at tombs."

Because of their reputation as the best curse-bearers, tombs were popular for curses. Stroszeck refers to another set of curse tablets from the 3rd Century CE, Kourion. This ancient site is located on the south coast in Cyprus. It included detailed instructions about where to place a curse tablet in a necropolis. These included:

These curse bearers were often in short supply so the well was used to collect curses. They found 30 curse tablets that were unique in their variety. One looked like a liver and another one like a knife.

Stroszeck stated, "The new pieces show us that there were a variety forms created for this purpose." "Except for the tablet and stripe forms, which both date back to ancient writing tools," said Stroszeck.

Curse tablets from Athens were used to stop curse-casters from being able talk, move, or think. Stroszeck says they were also used to curse love rivals. Haaretz reports that someone jealous of a newlywed's marriage made particular mention of the cursed bride’s vulva.

Even charioteers might resort to curses in order to outdo their opponents. Underworld? More like unsporting.

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