According to Dr. Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchakhanovitz, the directors of the excavation of the Antiquities Authority, “the plaque was discovered in one of the rooms of an enormous building from the Roman period, which was excavated at the site during the last few years. The building, which was erected during the third century CE at the northern end of the extension to the City of David, was destroyed in the earthquake that struck the area in 363 CE, as evidenced by the many coins found among the rubble of its second floor. Apart from the lead plate, a multitude of objects from the period were found inside the mounds of rubble that were excavated in its northeastern corner, including a large amount of roof tiles imprinted with the imprint of the tenth legion that camped in the city after its destruction in 70 CE, bone and ivory objects, clay figurines and other finds that testify to the rich material culture of its inhabitants. Remains of frescoes (colored plaster) found in the rubble are evidence that the walls of the second floor were painted in geometric and floral patterns.

Writing of an ancient curse from 1700 years ago

The lead plate, which at the time of its discovery resembled a small tube, was sent to the laboratories at the Antiquities Authority to be opened. Preserver Lena Kuperschmidt was the first to see it – since it was written and scrolled about 1700 years ago, in the ancient script. This, after working hard for several days to open it. Extreme patience was needed to open the tin plate – because any attempt to open it quickly could cause irreversible damage to the writing. When the plate was opened, it turned out that it is in an excellent state of preservation, and includes an inscription in Greek that covers the entire surface of one side, while the back of the plate is smooth.

The text is written in an eloquent script, and it is clear that it was not written by Kirila herself, but by a professional magician hired by her – this is shown by the analysis of Dr. Robert Daniel from the University of Cologne in Germany, a world-renowned expert in the field, to whom the tablet was sent to be read. The writing reveals the spell that a woman named Kirila seeks to cast on a man named Yannis, apparently following a legal dispute whose nature is unclear. To this end, she calls for the help of the gods of the underworld, including Pluto, Hermes, Persephone, and even the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal was required for the task.

“I hit and nailed the tongue, the eyes, the rage, the chastity, the rejection/procrastination and the resistance of Yannis” – writes Kirila in one section of the magical curse plate. It is possible that we have before us a metaphorical description of actions taken by Kirila aimed at giving her control over her legal opponent. At the same time, it should not be ruled out that it is possible that the writing of the text on the plate was accompanied, quite literally, by beating Kirila beating an image of Yannis with a hammer and nails (?) – a kind of ancient voodoo ritual.

Kirila buried the tablet in the place identified with Yannis – and therefore it is possible that the room on the top floor where the tablet was discovered in the ruins of the village was his place of residence. Alternatively, it is possible that there was a courtroom in this corner of the Roman building where the trial of Cyril and Yannis took place. Apparently Kirila buried the object not long before the destruction of the building in the earthquake, after which the building was abandoned and not returned to.