The Materiality of Ancient Curse Inscriptions Based on the Collection of Lead Tablets from the Athenian Ceramicus
Ancient curse tablets are an ideal material for the study of private writing practices in the ancient world. The chronological, geographical, linguistic and archaeological span of this corpus offers the opportunity to observe the evolution of a religious practice throughout the ancient world, in which the written artefact played a fundamental role.
Based on preliminary research on the linguistic and textual features of this collection of written artefacts, this project now focuses especially on aspects concerning its materiality. Some previous studies on this subject have already provided broad overviews of the circumstances of production, deposition as well as on the graphic features of ancient curse inscriptions. This project delves into these topics in a more systematic and comprehensive way, with the goal of grasping the actual function the written artefact fulfilled in each stage of the cursing ritual.
Besides the possibility of systematic enquiries on the entire corpus of ancient curse inscriptions, as it has now been made available by the new online database Thesaurus Defixionum Magdeburgensis (TheDeMa), this research will deal with a concrete sample of curse tablets, namely those that were unearthed over the years in the area of the Ceramicus in Athens. This proves to be an ideal selection of material, since its archaeological and historical contexts are well documented, so that a better assessment of the features of curse inscriptions themselves and their place of deposition can be achieved. Moreover, the evidence from the Ceramicus covers a wide chronological span (early 5th cent. BC - 3rd-4th cent. AD), thus allowing for a comprehensive overview of the evolution of this religious practice.