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Uncanny Archaeology of Halloween


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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #135 on: October 31, 2009, 01:08:59 am »

Later we are told that in response to prayers for help from Irene and her fellow nuns, two saints flew over the abbey and dropped a package inside of which were found the magical devices that had apparently caused the girl's insanity: two effigies made of lead and embracing each other. Such a detailed description of the supposed effect of an erotic spell is quite rare, but we can see how closely the novice's symptoms match up with the desired effects of such spells. It also attests the longevity of such beliefs.
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #136 on: October 31, 2009, 01:09:29 am »

Returning to the small figurines recently discovered in the ruins of the fountain of Anna Perenna, we suspect that, since there are so many of them, they are the work of a professional witch, but who were her clients and what were their goals? Were they curses designed to bind a rival charioteer like Victoricus or poet like the young Augustine in an upcoming contest? Were they designed to prevent a legal opponent from testifying in court against them? Or were they aimed at a much more important figure, like Germanicus, in line for high political office? So far, Marina Piranomonte has been able to read only one name on the corroded surface of the lead canisters: Antonius. Since roughly seventy of the eighty extant erotic curses are aimed at women, it is much more likely that the effigy enclosed within that container was used as part of curse against a rival or an enemy. But this need not be the case with the other canisters, since curses and erotic spells were often prepared and treated in the same manner and then deposited in the same place. Once the cleaning and conservation process is over, however, we will know more from the inscriptions. And then we will have the names of the people involved. If they are curses against rival athletes or politicians, they will mention only the victim's name, but if they are erotic spells they will preserve the names of both the victim and the client, because the demons need to know to whom they should send the sex-crazed victim. It is, however, highly unlikely that we will ever learn the name of the witch who prepared them. Unlike the woman apprehended and executed for the murder of Germanicus, all she has left us is her handiwork and a single thumbprint.

Christopher A. Faraone, a professor of classics at the University of Chicago, is author of Ancient Greek Love Magic (Harvard University Press, 1999) and coeditor of Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion (Oxford University Press, 1991).

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© 2009 by the Archaeological Institute of America
www.archaeology.org/0303/etc/magic.html

http://www.archaeology.org/0303/etc/magic.html
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #137 on: October 31, 2009, 01:21:11 am »



The 2nd-century A.D. novel Metamorphoses includes a witch able to transform herself into an owl. When Lucius, the main character attempts the same, he turns himself into an ass.
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« Reply #138 on: October 31, 2009, 01:22:13 am »



Germanicus, the grand-nephew of the emperor Augustus, was believed to have been killed by witchcraft.
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Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #139 on: October 31, 2009, 01:22:38 am »

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« Reply #140 on: October 31, 2009, 01:23:15 am »



A man named Kardelos was attacked in this 4th-century A.D. curse tablet from Rome.
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« Reply #141 on: October 31, 2009, 01:23:49 am »



A 4th-century A.D. curse tablet related to chariot races from near Rome
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« Reply #142 on: October 31, 2009, 01:24:26 am »



Witches in antiquity were often described as hags who could command the dead, like Lucan's Erictho using a dead soldier to foretell events or the Bible's witch of Endor raising the ghost of Samuel at the behest of Saul.
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« Reply #143 on: October 31, 2009, 01:25:03 am »



A Pompeiian mosaic shows a scene from a play in which two women consult a witch.
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« Reply #144 on: October 31, 2009, 01:26:46 am »

Curse of the Stolen Cloak
Volume 60 Number 2, March/April 2007
by Jason Urbanus
[image]   During salvage excavations in Leicester, archaeologists discovered a curse tablet near the ruins of a Roman townhouse. (Courtesy University of Leicester Archaeological Services)

Servandus, a Roman who lived in Britain around 1,700 years ago, was unhappy about having his cloak stolen. So he asked a god to destroy the culprit. This ancient case of petty larceny has now been reopened by archaeologists excavating in Leicester, England, where they uncovered a Latin "curse tablet" that targets the thief.

The thin, rectangular sheet of lead, dating to the second or third century A.D. and measuring 7 by 3 inches, bears the inscription:

    To the god Maglus, I give the wrongdoer who stole the cloak of Servandus. . . . that he destroy him before the ninth day, the person who stole the cloak of Servandus.

The inscription includes the names of 18 or 19 possible suspects. Not much is known about the god Maglus, but the name might derive from a Celtic word for "prince."

The University of Leicester Archaeological Services found the tablet during digging at the site of a planned downtown development. Over the past two years the team has also unearthed a substantial Roman townhouse, Roman public buildings, and sections of the city's ancient walls.

Whether the cloak thief was ever punished will remain a mystery, but perhaps Servandus was not alone. Among the thousands of pieces of pottery, animal bones, coins, and other small objects uncovered in Leicester was a second curse tablet. It has yet to be translated.

Jason Urbanus is a doctoral candidate at the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University.

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© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
www.archaeology.org/0703/abstracts/thief.html

http://www.archaeology.org/0703/abstracts/thief.html
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« Reply #145 on: October 31, 2009, 01:28:40 am »

Curses of Caesarea
"Uncanny Archaeology"
by Andrew Slayman

Why were 50 curse tablets buried at the headquarters of the Roman governor of Judea?

More than 50 Roman-era curse tablets have been found in a well at the ruins of King Herod's palace at Caesarea Maritima. The well is thought to date to sometime after the 1st century A.D., when the palace served as headquarters of the Roman governor of Judea. The tablets, the largest single collection ever found in Israel, were discovered by a University of Pennsylvania team led by Kathryn Gleason and Barbara Burrell. Made of soft lead and inscribed with enemies' names, tablets of this type were usually placed in wells or graves where, it was believed, spirits of underworld gods or dead would activate the curses. Burrell speculates that many of the tablets found at Caesarea were intended to influence decisions of the governor's tribunal, believed to have been located in adjacent buildings; some may have been intended to influence the outcome of games at the nearby arena. Decipherment of the tablets by Holt Parker of the University of Cincinnati should clarify the nature of the curses and explain why they were deposited in this particular well. Fragments of lamps and pottery, dice, and coins also found in the well will help date the tablets.

This newsbrief first appeared in ARCHAEOLOGY, March/April 1995, p. 16.

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© 2009 by the Archaeological Institute of America
www.archaeology.org/online/features/halloween/curses.html


http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/halloween/curses.html
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« Reply #146 on: October 31, 2009, 01:29:36 am »



Fragments of lead curse tablets found at Caesarea (Courtesy University of Pennsylvania)
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« Reply #147 on: October 31, 2009, 01:30:33 am »

Curse of the Balsam Cookers
February 25, 1997
by Abraham Rabinovich

The mystery of a curse inscribed on the mosaic floor of an ancient synagogue at Ein Gedi on the shores of the Dead Sea may have been resolved. The 4th-century A.D. mosaic, uncovered 25 years ago, bears a curse in Aramaic against anyone revealing the "secret of the town to the gentiles." Scholars had speculated that the curse might relate to the town's production of balsam. Sap from the balsam tree was used as a healing agent, but it was also a highly prized perfume whose production enriched the coffers of the rulers of Judea and later of Rome. Ein Gedi and two other sites in the Dead Sea area were apparently the only centers of balsam growing.

In his first season at Ein Gedi, Hebrew University archaeologist Yizhar Hirschfeld excavated the remains of a two-story stone tower adjacent to ancient agricultural terraces, presumably connected with the production of balsam. A steeply sloping glacis (or incline) shielded a wooden entrance to the tower that could be blocked by a heavy wheel-like stone that was rolled back and forth on a dirt track. A six-foot-high reservoir built against a rear wall is where balsam was produced, says Hirschfeld, who believes that balsam tree leaves and bark were brought to the tower from the surrounding terraces and cooked in a small forecourt where remains of a furnace and large amounts of ash have been found. Hirschfeld suspects that the cooked balsam was then put in a reservoir abutting the tower's rear wall, where it was mixed with water. He says the balsam essence then flowed from this reservoir through a hole in the wall directly into the basin in the building's interior.

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© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America
www.archaeology.org/online/news/balsam.html

http://www.archaeology.org/online/news/balsam.html
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« Reply #148 on: October 31, 2009, 01:32:09 am »

Plague Vampire Exorcism

by Samir S. Patel

Picture a 16th-century plague victim, wrapped in a cloth shroud and buried. Now picture a gravedigger, assigned to the terrible work of opening a mass grave to put more bodies in. He scrapes the dirt away from the face and finds, to his horror, that the corpse is trying to eat its way out. Where the shroud covers the mouth there is a dark, bilious stain and the cloth has been worn through. As if it wasn't already difficult enough to dig graves for plague victims, he now has to deal with the undead--a malicious, pestilent vampire. The solution, a sort of vampire exorcism, would have been to cram a brick in the corpse's mouth to prevent it from eating its way out of the grave and spreading the plague. It is the stuff of legend, but there's something to it--a good scientific reason why it would appear a corpse was trying to eat its way out of the grave, and clear archaeological evidence for exorcism by brick. Senior Editor Samir S. Patel spoke with University of Florence forensic anthropologist and archaeologist Matteo Borrini after the meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Science in Denver, where he presented an "exorcised" skull from a plague grave on the Venetian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo.
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« Reply #149 on: October 31, 2009, 01:33:44 am »



Matteo Borrini (Courtesy Matteo Borrini)

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