At a building site of a soon-to-be power plant in eastern Serbia, a group of skeletons were discovered in an ancient Roman tomb. Upon digging further, archaeologists found they were lying among tiny etched rolls of silver and gold. After some deciphering and research, they realized they may have invoked some ancient curses.
The area was an ancient Roman city known as Viminacium around 2,000 years ago. It was once the home to around 40,000 people and the capital of a Roman province situated in the Balkans called Moesia Superior.
The exact story of the etchings remains lost in translation as the text is written using the Greek alphabet and the ancient Middle Eastern language of Aramaic. But the researchers have strong reason to believe these relics are charms, once believed to curse or perform wishes from beyond the grave.
"We read the names of a few demons, that are connected to the territory of modern-day Syria," on-site archaeologist Ilija Dankovic told Reuters.
The rolls are smaller than a candy-wrapper and made of thin gold and silver, which has become incredibly delicate over the millennia. This is the first time something like this has been found in Serbia, however, the archeologists noted they have an overbearing similarity to “magic-summoning” amulets found in other countries.
The site of the Roman tombs in Viminacium. Dr Miomir Korac.
"They were often love charms, ordering someone to fall in love, but there were also dark, malignant curses, to the tune of: ‘may your body turn dead, as cold and heavy as this lead,’" Dankovic said.
However, while curse tablets are exceptionally rare, burying gold was nearly unheard of in Roman times. Miomir Korac, the chief archaeologist at the Viminacium site, believe this hints at some interesting historical insights to the life and beliefs of ancient Romans in the Balkans.
"This is a very important archaeological discovery because it shows us how luxurious the life in Viminacium was or how much hope they had in the 'curse tablets' so that they used precious metals," Korac told NBC News.
He added: “Opposing deities appear on these tablets, as if invoking both Christ and the Antichrist today, or Christ and pagan gods, and that is weird. This shows us that the process of converting to Christianity was slow."