A mysterious inscription etched onto a 1,500-year-old Greek tablet has finally been deciphered to reveal a deviously-detailed curse urging demons to act against a dancer called ‘Manna.’
The lead tablet, found by Italian archaeologists several decades ago in Israel, has only recently been deciphered thanks to modern technology which gave researchers an edge in reading the scrawl. The note calls on several gods and demons to hurt Manna and afflict his movements, urging them to: “Bind down the eyes, the hands, the feet.”
Attilio Mastrocinque, professor of Roman history at the University of Verona, was the first to crack the inscription, and says the subject of the curse was probably a famous artist. The twin lures of fame and reputation likely prompted their rival to turn to the gods for divine intervention in scuppering Manna’s performance.
A method called ‘Reflectance Transformation Imaging’ created an enhanced image of the tablet surface, finally allowed experts to read and research the tablet.
When the 110-line curse was inscribed on the tablet, the Byzantine Empire controlled the area, and it’s possible that the writer and the dancer named in the curse hailed from rival, even warring, factions.
“This [tablet] along with many others issued in the late imperial period and in the early Middle Ages, confirms that the Christianization of the Roman Empire did not stop the maleficent magical arts,” according to Mastrocinque, as cited by LiveScience. “On the contrary, these increasingly spread and became more sophisticated.”