In the depths of Ancient Egypt, a fascinating relic emerges – a wax tablet bearing the Greek homework of a student dating back to the 2nd century AD. Preserved in the archives of the British Library, this wooden tablet, roughly the size of a contemporary Kindle, provides a captivating glimpse into the daily life of a student from nearly 1,800 years ago.
The Cryptic Writing on Wax
The inscriptions on the tablet offer intriguing phrases, such as “Accept the advice of a wise man only” and “You cannot trust all your friends.” The first line showcases a written example by the teacher, while the subsequent two lines reveal the same words clumsily copied by the student. Beyond this, the homework delves into writing exercises, multiplication tables, and reading practices.
Unraveling the Enigma: The Tablet’s Owner
The identity of the tablet’s owner remains shrouded in mystery. According to the Ontario Royal Museum, formal education in ancient Egypt was often a privilege of affluent males. Therefore, it’s presumed that the child likely hailed from a wealthy family.
Crafting Homework Tablets: A Lost Art
Homework tablets like these were crafted by pouring melted, darkened wax into a rectangular cavity at the center of a wooden tablet. Once the wax cooled, teachers and students could use a metal stylus to etch letters that appeared lighter against the dark background.
Preservation Against the Odds
Typically, wax disintegrates when exposed to moisture, but the dry climate of Egypt has allowed the novice handwriting of a primary school student from nearly two millennia ago to reach us today.