Connection between a rediscovered Dacian wax-tablet and the funerary reliefs

Szabó Csaba–Szabó Ernő

Representations of writing materials on Roman funerary monuments. Text, image, message. International conference, Pécs

ABSTRACT: In January 2021, at Nagyenyed (Aiud, Romania) we had an opportunity to thoroughly examine and digitize the wax-tablet CIL III 953 (TC XV). The tablet, which has been discovered in the ancient mining region of Verespatak (Roșia Montană, Romania) in 1855, was considered to be lost for about a century and a half following Theodor Mommsen’s publication, and up until now only a concise description and a vague reading published in the CIL was available. Mommsen did not mention the wax coating of the pagina prior recto and the pagina posterior verso, as well as the traces of text observed on these pages. Thus, the later technical literature erroneously referred to these tablets as a diptych or triptych instead of a codex originally consisting of at least four (quinquiplex or tetraptychon) or more (multiplex or polyptychon) wax-tablets. The board is in “portrait” format, the traces of writing scratched into the wax run parallel to the shorter sides of the tablets perpendicular to the connection and the veining of the wood. This format is unique among the Dacian wax-tablets. Due to the vertical format of the board and its connection by means of pairs of holes in a vertical position on the edge of one of the longitudinal sides, it cannot be fitted into the typological system established on the basis of the similar finds at Vindonissa and also used in interpreting other related objects. Based on these two characteristics—the portrait format and the connection—as well as their small size and the content of the text we can classify them as codices called “account-tablets”. Similar codices were found in large numbers in the territory of Roman Egypt, and a specimen is also known from Dura Europos. We also know wax tablets of this format from Herculaneum, although their text has not survived. Probably such account-tablets can be seen in some still lives on the wall paintings in the Vesuvian cities. In our lecture—in addition to the presentation of the now rediscovered Dacian wax-tablet—we look for the answer to whether analogous account-tablets can be identified on the representations of Roman funerary reliefs.

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