Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Curse: Tablet To God Maglus Invokes Destruction Of Cloak-pilferer

Date:
November 30, 2006
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
An ancient curse aimed at a thief is one of a number of treasures to be unveiled to the public for the first time, following the largest archaeological excavation the city of Leicester has ever seen.

Martin Shore, senior site supervisor at the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, who found the curse tablet.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Leicester

An ancient curse aimed at a thief is one of a number of treasures to be unveiled to the public for the first time, following the largest archaeological excavation the city of Leicester has ever seen.

Related Articles


Over the past three years, a team of up to 60 archaeologists from University of Leicester Archaeological Services has been working on a number of sites in the city. Almost 9% of Leicester's historic core has been subject to investigation in some form, giving new insights into the appearance and development of the Roman and medieval towns.

One of the most interesting finds from a site on Vine Street was a 'curse' tablet -- a sheet of lead inscribed in the second or third century AD and intended to invoke the assistance of a chosen god. It has been translated by a specialist at Oxford University, and reads:

'To the god Maglus, I give the wrongdoer who stole the cloak of Servandus. Silvester, Riomandus (etc.) ... that he destroy him before the ninth day, the person who stole the cloak of Servandus...' Then follows a list of the names of 18 or 19 suspects. What happened to them is not recorded.

Before the discovery of this object, archaeologists only knew of the names of three or four of the inhabitants of Roman Leicester, so the find is of great significance.

Richard Buckley, co-Director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said: "Curse tablets are known from a number of Roman temple sites in Britain, and are thin rectangular sheets of lead bearing the 'curse' inscribed with a point or stylus. They were usually rolled up and were probably nailed to the wall of a temple or shrine. Most curses seem to relate to thefts and typically the chosen god is asked to do harm to the perpetrator. It has been suggested, on the basis of name forms and the value of items stolen, that the curses relate to the lives of ordinary people, rather than the wealthy, and that they were perhaps commissioned by the dedicator from a professional curse writer.

"The Leicester curse is unusually well preserved and had not been rolled up. After initial cleaning by a conservator, it was clear that it was covered in handwritten script, including a column of text which looks rather like a list. The inscription is currently being translated by a specialist at the University of Oxford. He notes that the Latin of the script reflects the spoken language in several ways. There are 18 or 19 names, a mixture of commonplace Roman (like Silvester and Germanus), Celtic (like Riomandus and Cunovendus), and 'Roman' names found in Celtic-speaking provinces (like Regalis). The god's name might be a title - 'prince' in Celtic.

"The curse is a remarkable discovery, and at a stroke, dramatically increases the number of personal names known from Roman Leicester. So far, we have the soldier, Marcus Ulpius Novantico, from a military discharge certificate of AD106, 'Verecunda' and Lucius' from a graffito on a piece of pottery and 'Primus' who inscribed his name on a tile he had made. The name forms will help us to understand the cultural make up of the population, whilst the subject matter tells us about the spread of spoken Latin and the religious practices of ordinary people".

The excavations have also produced many thousands of sherds of pottery, together with building materials, animal bone and a large variety of smaller objects, including Roman weighing scales, coins, brooches, gaming pieces and hairpins. A find of note from the medieval period is a piece of high status chain mail.

Four large sites were excavated in 2005 and 2006 as part of the Highcross Quarter and Leicester Square Developments, funded by Hammerson plc and Thomas Fish and Co. respectively. Now that the fieldwork has finished, the archaeologists would like to share the discoveries with the public

On Saturday 2nd December, between 11am and 4pm there will be a 'meet the specialists day' at the Jewry Wall Museum (by kind permission of Leicester City Council) with posters and displays of finds to showcase some of the main results of the work.

Images of the ancient curse tablet will be on show- the tablet itself is in safekeeping with experts in Oxford.

Highlights of the project have included:

  • The discovery of the lost medieval churches of St Peter and St Michael and their graveyards, with the excavation of over 1600 burials
  • The excavation of a substantial Roman town house of the 2nd century AD and an adjacent public building
  • The investigation of the northern Roman and medieval town defences and the discovery of part of the town wall, together with an interval tower
  • The collapsed wall of the macellum or market hall, one of Leicester's Roman public buildings -- rare evidence for the appearance of a Roman structure in the city.
  • The investigation of a deep sequence of medieval and post-medieval properties on Highcross Street, with evidence for a brewery
  • New evidence for Dark Age Leicester, from the discovery of Anglo-Saxon structures of the 5th-6th century AD

The site directors will be on hand to talk about the results of the excavations and there will be the opportunity to view some of the finds and meet specialists in Roman pottery, medieval and post medieval pottery, animal bone, human bone, building materials, small finds and environmental evidence.

Richard Buckley commented: 'The recent excavations have been on a scale rarely seen in British cities, and for the first time in Leicester it has been possible to look at large areas of the Roman and medieval town. This has made it possible to examine complete buildings and to see how an entire neighbourhood changed over almost 2000 years.

'Now begins the painstaking process of analysing the results of the project. The work will involve many specialists and is expected to take several years.'

A private viewing will be held the day before the public exhibition (on Dec 1), and guests for this will include the Deputy Lord Mayor and Deputy Lady Mayoress, representatives from city organisations and societies, the Highcross Quarter project and the Leicester Square project. Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Professor Bill Brammar and Head of the School of Archaeology, Professor Colin Haselgrove will be among the University guests in attendance.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Curse: Tablet To God Maglus Invokes Destruction Of Cloak-pilferer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061130081359.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2006, November 30). Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Curse: Tablet To God Maglus Invokes Destruction Of Cloak-pilferer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061130081359.htm
University of Leicester. "Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Curse: Tablet To God Maglus Invokes Destruction Of Cloak-pilferer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061130081359.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) Media is calling it an "underwater Pompeii." Researchers have found ruins off the coast of Delos. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins