During an emergency excavation at the site of a new parking garage in Rome’s Piazza Euclid, archaeologist Marina Piranomonte and her colleagues found the remains of a fountain dedicated to a minor and very ancient Roman goddess, Anna Perenna. Embedded in the layers of mud and debris they came upon a cache of voodoo dolls and lead curse tablets that had apparently been hidden there sometime in the fourth century A.D. Many of the dolls had been placed in lead canisters, one of which yielded a thumbprint, probably of a woman, according to the police fingerprint laboratory. The discovery supports the impression we get from ancient literary sources that women often acted as professional witches.
First she arranged her deadly laboratory with its customary apparatus, setting out spices of all sorts, unintelligibly lettered metal plaques, the surviving remains of ill-omened birds, and numerous pieces of mourned and even buried corpses:
Behind this lurid scene set in far-off Thessaly, there are undoubtedly some true-to-life facts, for magic was pervasive in the classical world…Magic was clearly not something to be trifled with. What, then, was the witch who left us her thumbprint at the fountain of Anna Perenna in Rome doing? There are two strong possibilities: she was engaged either in cursing people or in magically compelling them to fall in love.
What about the recent finds from underneath the Piazza Euclid in Rome? Were they curses designed to bind a rival or an enemy and prevent them from defeating the witch or one of her clients in an upcoming lawsuit or race?
Written by Christopher A. Faraone, a professor of classics at the University of Chicago, is author of Ancient Greek Love Magic (Harvard University Press, 1999) and coeditor of Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion (Oxford University Press, 1991).
You can read the full article at http://archive.archaeology.org/0303/etc/magic.html