Reading ancient schoolroom a great success!

More than 100 local and not-so-local schoolchildren, teachers, and parents came to Reading on November 19th for Experiencing Ancient Education, an event in which research by Reading Classicists on how ancient schools functioned was presented in action by creating a replica ancient schoolroom for a day.

Roman clothes were produced specially for the event by copying the garments on an ancient picture of a school, and all participants dressed in these costumes and learned in a room decorated as a replica of a real ancient schoolroom recently excavated in Egypt.

Windows looking out on the Nile river were contributed by an artist connected to the department, and the walls were painted by enthusiastic students and staff.

Participants practiced reading from a scroll of papyrus written in ancient fashion (i.e. no spaces between the words or other reading aids), writing on wax tablets, copying poetry onto ostraca (pieces of broken pottery), and doing mathematical calculations in Roman numerals.

The event also included a visit from the Classics Kitchen, which served delicious Roman food and sold beautiful recipe booklets as well as providing an opportunity to handle and learn about the different grain crops on which the Roman diet was based.

The Roman Shop, the source of much of the replica equipment used in the event, also had a stand displaying some of their beautiful and amazingly affordable merchandise, and the Ure museum offered participants an opportunity to handle real ancient objects and learn about their history.

For more photographs of the event see

This event was a joint effort from many people, including not only staff members but also some very intelligent, committed, and hard-working students, and the department would like to express its gratitude to them all. In particular we are grateful to:

  • Eleanor Dickey, main organizer
  • Emma Aston, Amy Smith, and Rachel Mairs, head teachers and providers of help with organization
  • Stephen Perrin, David Logue, Alex Heavens, Chris Pritchard, Sarah Wallace, Bethan White, and Rachael Hopley, junior teachers
  • Philomen Probert, mathematics teacher
  • Frances Sturgeon, head of costumes
  • Bethan White, Sarah Wallace, Stephen Perrin, and Chris Pritchard, costumers
  • Daniela Colomo, David Logue, and Rachael Hopley, ostraca washers
  • Chris Pritchard and Jessica Wragg, papyrus sellers
  • Jackie Baines and Katie Maria Mitchell, logistics
  • Sarah Wallace, Emma Aston, Rachel Mairs, Philomen Probert, Daniela Colomo, Cristiano Viglietti, Ulrich Mania, Jessica Wragg, Chris Pritchard, Stephen Perrin, David Logue, Alex Heavens, Rachael Hopley, and Eleanor Dickey, setup and cleanup
  • Cressida Ryan, Katie Maria Mitchell, James Barr, Jayne Holly-Wait, and Rebecca MacRae, publicity
  • Rosemary Aston, creator of the windows
  • Phoebe West, Jessica Wragg, and Eleanor Dickey, costume makers
  • Phoebe West, maker of the pen wipers
  • Jayne Holly-Wait and Rebecca MacRae, bag collection and Ure activities
  • Miriam Bay and Stefanie Metcalf, Classics Kitchen
  • Taery Kim and The Roman Shop, shoes, papyrus, tablets and styluses, pens, baskets, cup
  • Claire Sharp and John Peter Wild, costume consultants
  • The School of Advanced Study, AHRC, and British Academy, sponsors of the Being Human festival of which the schoolroom was a part (
  • Homebase Oxford, source of ostraca

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