Mysterious 'curse tablet' found in Jersey field


IT may look like nothing more than a discarded fishing weight or leftover scrap from a DIY project...

But this square inch of lead, found buried in a field in St Brelade, may contain a curse dating back to the 1st Century AD.

The faded brown parcel, which is folded at both ends, is believed to be a curse tablet – a means favoured by the Romans for either encouraging good fortune or heaping misery on an enemy.

The process was simple – inscribe the name of the recipient on the lead, along with a description of the required action, fold over the edges and bury it underground or toss it into a well.

Often, the tablets would ask the gods or spirits to intervene to bring about happier times.

But they were also used to try to bring misfortune – sometimes comically – to a foe.

A number of curse tablets previously found in Greece centred on court cases, often wishing that the opposing party fluffed their performance in court or collapsed.

Others penned by wives whose husbands had gone off with other women asked for their love rival’s hair to fall out, while some written by men wished for other men to suffer some form of problem with their sexual performance.

The tablet, discovered by metal detectorist Ken Rive in a secret field which has offered up other, yet to be publicly announced, items, is believed to be the first found in the Channel Islands.

Robert Waterhouse, field archaeologist for the Société Jersiaise, which is now in possession of the tablet, said it is believed to date back to between the 1st and 3rd Century AD.

But the curse – and the identity of the intended target – could remain a mystery.

‘Opening a curse tablet is fraught with difficulties. They are very delicate and if we do ever decide to open it, it will have to be done by [Jersey Heritage Museum conservator] Neil Mahrer,’ he added.

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