Unravelling the Past (one scroll at a time) – New blog by Sara Brown

The CAER Lead Scroll before Conservation

As one of the Finds Officers on this years CAER Heritage Project excavation I am fortunate to be one of the first people to come face to face with material not otherwise seen for thousands of years. A highlight for me, so far, was the opportunity to open a possible Roman Lead Curse Tablet.

Curse tablets were left by the Romans at temple sites as tokens in return for a wish or to put a curse on an enemy; the modern day equivalent of throwing a penny in a wishing well. Curse tablets have been found at Roman sites across Britain. Some are inscribed with its bearer’s desires and some left blank. Theories suggest that blank tablets may have contained organic material such as hair or fabric that would represent the curse. Often, due to its burial environment, this material has not survived.

The CAER Lead Scroll after Conservation; also pictured are the tools used during treatment

Using a combination of soft tools and heat I have been able to carefully unroll the lead scroll found at Caerau. Unfortunately no inscription was found leaving the scrolls purpose a mystery. Could a stranger have deposited it 2000 years ago as a token of cruel intentions?

Perhaps the analysis of the finds from the excavation will tell us more…


About the Author

Sara Brown is a recent graduate from Cardiff University. She has a BSc in Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology and as such is professionally trained in the conservation of archaeological material. She has been able to undertake this project having previous experience of unrolling Roman lead scrolls. For more information on her past projects please click here

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