Digs & Discoveries September/October 2012


The ancient Romans were a vindictive bunch. They regularly called on the gods to harm those they perceived had wronged them, sometimes recording their curses on thin lead tablets that were usually rolled up and deposited inside graves, temples, and shrines. While examining two such tablets recently rediscovered in the City Archaeological Museum of Bologna—their provenance is unknown—researcher Celia Sánchez Natalías of the University of Zaragoza in Spain found two particularly nasty examples. “Destroy, crush, kill, strangle Porcello and wife Maurilla. Their soul, heart, buttocks, liver...” says part of a tablet dating to the fourth or fifth century a.d. Sánchez Natalías believes this is a curse directed at a veterinarian and his wife, perhaps for the death of an animal. The second curse, one of the only known examples directed at a Roman senator, reads, “Crush, kill Fistus the senator.... May Fistus dilute, languish, sink, and may all his limbs be dissolved.” One can only imagine what Fistus must have done to engender such vitriol.—Jarrett A. Lobell

  • Artifacts September/October 2012

    Clay Tablet

    A previously unknown ancient language is discovered on a 2,700-year-old tablet

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  • Around the World September/October 2012


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  • Digs & Discoveries September/October 2012

    The Seeds of Inequality

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  • Features September/October 2012

    Final Resting Place of an Outlaw

    Archaeological and forensic detective work lead to the remains of Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s most celebrated, reviled, and polarizing historical figures

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