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Uley : Cult and Curses

The practice of inscribing lead curse tablets at Uley began during the second century AD. The script in which most texts were composed (Old Roman Cursive) suggests that they were inscribed in the second and third centuries AD. Very few were written in the script of the fourth century AD, New Roman Cursive (see Cursing for beginners - Curses and cursive).

However, few of the tablets were found in deposits dating to the period in which they were written. The disturbance of the temple deposits (see Uley : history) has left many tablets, like other objects, to be found in contexts which are later, often centuries later, than the period in which they were written. The distribution does however indicate that tablets had been left in the same contexts as other votives and that their deposition was not separated from the other rituals conducted at the sanctuary.

The earliest contexts in which tablets were found date to the first half of the fourth century AD and comprise spreads of debris related to the partial demolition of structure IV and demolition deposits and robber trenches over structure I (see Uley : other buildings). These are likely to derive from the cleaning out of the temple, but perhaps too other building which may also have played a role in ritual.

Nearly 50 tablets were found in deposits of c. AD 350-380, along with much other votive material, in demolition debris again spread over structure I (see Uley : other buildings) probably deriving from the temple at the period of its partial collapse and rebuilding (see Uley : temple). A handful of tablets was also recovered from deposits at the rear of the temple cella.

Deposits dated to the late fourth and early fifth centuries AD included very few tablets in the demolition rubble spread over the cella of the temple and structure IV (see Uley : other buildings). Five of the seven inscribed tablets are in Old Roman Cursive and had thus been written at least a hundred years before, clearly indicating the disturbance of much older deposits at this time. The two tablets in New Roman Cursive might have been written in this period and deposited in the ruins of the complex but more plausibly they too are residual finds from earlier periods.

The handful of tablets in deposits of the fifth to seventh centuries is certainly residual. Most were found with masses of other artefacts in the material used to build the bank north of the buildings (see Uley : other buildings). Nearly 50 tablets were found in the ploughsoil, testifying to the destruction wrought by medieval and modern ploughing on the remains of the sanctuary, obliterating the contexts in which artefacts were buried and re-distributing them within the topsoil.

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