Archaeologists investigating a construction site in northern Germany recently uncovered a cryptic artifact they believe dates back to the 15th century: a medieval “cursing tablet” with an inscription apparently directed at two specific individuals.
The tablet was made of a small sheet of lead that was rolled up and “inconspicuous” when archaeologists discovered it under a latrine at the site in Rostock, a coastal city where construction was underway on a town hall building, the city said in a translated news release.
Curse tablets were often hidden in places “where they were difficult or impossible to find” so that “the cursed would not find out about the impending disaster,” according to the release, which added that obscurity meant the tablet’s “harmful magic could therefore unfold rest in peace.”
When researchers unrolled the piece of metal, they found a handwritten message in Gothic script that was difficult to see with the naked eye. They ultimately deciphered the letters as a clear curse, aimed at a woman named Taleke and a man named Hinrik with its ill omen. According to archaeologists, the script read “sathanas taleke belzebuk hinrik berith”, which they interpreted as a call summoning Satan and the demonic spirit Berith against the unfortunate couple for some reason.
“Did anyone want to break up Taleke and Heinrich’s relationship? Was this about scorned love and jealousy, did someone need to be put out of the way?” asked Rostock officials in the press release.
Jörg Ansorge, who led the excavation project, said the tablet was “truly a very special find” in a statement. He noted that curse tablets like the one found in Rostock are typically associated with ancient Greece and Rome.
“Curse tablets are actually known from ancient times in the Greek and Roman regions, meaning from the period from 800 BC to 600 AD,” said Ansorge. “Our discovery, on the other hand, can be dated to the 15th century.”
Other “cursing tablets” have been uncovered by archaeologists before. ONE 1,500 years old lead tablet found in an ancient theater in present-day Israel had Greek inscriptions summoning demons to harm a rival dancer, and 2,400 years old tablets discovered in Athens called on the gods of the underworld to harm a group of innkeepers, LiveScience reported.
The tablet, discovered in Germany, was not the first archaeological find in Rostock, according to the city. Ansorge was also involved in a project on the same town hall building, where they dug in Valencian chandelier ware earlier this year. Experts say the well-preserved bowl was made in Valencia, Spain, sometime during the 15th century.