The Ephorate of Antiquities of Ioannina is very happy to announce the inscription of the lead tablets of Dodona in the “Memory of the World” of Unesco, following the statement of the outgoing Minister of Culture and Sports, Lina Mendoni.
The lead tablets of Dodona are a unicum in the ancient Greek world dated from the 6th century BC to the mid-2nd century BC. They are small pieces of lead strips (measuring not more than ca. 13,20 cm long and 6,70 cm wide), on which questions were inscribed, addressed either only to Zeus or to him and Dione, his cult partner at Dodona. In total, more than 4,000 lead tablets have been discovered, scattered within the temenos of Dodona. The lead tablets give us a direct and unbiased access to the concerns of enquirers: marriage, divorce, birth and survival of children, travel, professional plans, health and healing, military service, purchase of slaves, manumission. The tablets do not only attest different dialects, but also different handwritings given the multitude of people that visited the oracle over the centuries. Due to the typological variety of the questions and the very diverse origins of the inquirers, the tablets are a set of finds that not only allows a unique insight into the cult practice of the Oracle but also offers instructive information about socio-historical and political contexts and backgrounds, as well as epigraphy and dialectology.
This is the second Greek entry in the “Memory of the World Catalogue”. The first was the Derveni papyrus.
In November 2021, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ioannina, in collaboration with the Directorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, composed and submitted the proposal for the registration of the lead tablets of Dodona, unique for Epirus and worldwide, where the oldest Greek oracle and the place that Zeus himself loved and designated as his sanctuary.
This is an extraordinary success of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ioannina and also of those who assisted it in this multi-year effort.