Dr Roger Tomlin casts verdict on Roman ‘curse tablet’

Published on:

17 August 2012

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Dr Roger Tomlin, lecturer in late Roman history at Wolfson, has told the BBC that a lead tablet discovered in a Roman farmstead in Kent may have been used by Romans to cast spells on people accused of theft and other misdeeds.

The tablet, which was unearthed by the Maidstone Area Archaeological Group, is inscribed with the names of fourteen people, and was examined over four days by Dr Tomlin, an authority on Roman inscriptions. He believes that the tablet is likely to have been made in the third century AD, making the tablet one of the earliest written records of British life.

"Lists of names are quite often found on lead tablets," he said. "Sometimes they accompany a complaint of theft addressed to a god, and name persons suspected of the theft.

"In one case, a tablet found in Germany, the names were explicitly those of enemies."

Although only six of the fourteen names are legible, it is hoped that further cleaning and testing could allow all of the names to be transcribed.