Homan tablet and stylus: newest acquisitions in the Ure Museum

On 17th October 2018 the Ure Museum Curators welcomed friends and supporters, Classics Department staff and students, and other university staff including Vice Chancellor Prof. Robert Van de Noort and Prof. Roberta Gilchrist, Dean of Heritage and Creativity, to the launch of its latest acquisitions, the Homan tablet and stylus. The acquisitions, purchased gratefully with a bequest from Martin and Rosemary Hughes—who attended the launch—to remember Martin’s mother, Marjorie Homan, and thus thank her—along with his father—for encouraging Martin’s study of the Classics, through to degree level at Oxford University. After a few words of welcome and thanks to the donors, from the Ure Museum’s Curator, Prof. Amy C. Smith, Prof. Eleanor Dickey spoke about the acquisition and its usefulness in teaching and research, and warmly thanked Dr. Daniela Colomo, Curator of the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus Collection at Oxford University, who had just delivered an excellent lecture in the departmental seminar. Emeritus Prof. Jane Gardner followed up with words of thanks also to Prof. Dickey and a mention of the potential usefulness of this acquisition visavis the Reading Ancient Schoolroom (next occuring in January 2019), reminding the audience of Reading Classics’ unique record of engaging students directly in cutting-edge academic research and the public dissemination of antiquity. Finally Martin Hughes, the benefactor, spoke of his gratitude to the Department for their generous welcome throughout the years, while he has been attending departmental seminars, and of his pleasure in sharing this acquisition with the students and visitors to the Ure Museum.


Prof. Eleanor Dickey describing the teaching value of the tablet and stylus for the Classics Department


Emeritus Prof. Jane Gardner speaking of Reading Classics’ tradition of innovative teaching and research


The artefacts are now displayed just to the right of the entrance to the Ure Museum. The writing tablet, made of wood, has some wax in the corner that indicates it was once used as a writing tablet on which a stylus, such as the bronze one with which it is displayed, would have been used, with the pointed end to incise writing in the wax surface. The flat end of the stylus would have been used to flatten the wax, thereby erasing the writing. At some point in later antiquity the tablet was covered with white upon which a more permanent message was written with ink in cursive ancient Greek. The message and further details will not be revealed until our first year students have had a chance to grapple with it and our MA students have had an opportunity to research and write permanent labels for the artefacts.

The new acquisitions (in case on the right) are greeted by (from left to right) Acting Vice Chancellor Prof. Robert Van der Noort, Ure Museum Curator Prof. Amy Smith, Research Dean (Heritage and Creativity) Prof. Roberta Gilchrist, the donor Mr. Martin Hughes, Head of Classics Dr Emma Aston, and Mrs. Rosemary Hughes the donor’s wife


Students in the Reading Classics Department inspect the tablet and stylus




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