Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Witches of Thessaly

As it's nearly Hallowe'en, here's a comic strip version of a spooky tale from Apuleius, drawn by a former pupil of mine. To read a translation of the story, go here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Archaeology Project 2014

We had another attempt at Dr F's Archaeology Project this year, and it was definitely more successful than its three predecessors. In the Michaelmas term, as the children began learning about Vindolanda, we talked about the survival of different materials and objects. We found an open-topped wooden box and began making a list of things to put in it.
The children suggested items and found them around school or in my collection. This year's box included flint, lead, copper, steel, glass, unfired and fired clay, wax, wood with writing on, a walnut, toast, a cow's tooth and a photo of the class printed on paper. We made lists of the objects, to check later.
We took the box outside to the edge of the playground by the woods, along with a spade. This time, we used the iPad to record exactly where we had dug the hole. (One year, we couldn't find it at all!)
We managed to bury the box so that the top edge was just below the soil level.
We could see the burial site from the classroom, and all year pupils have speculated on the progress of decay and change, especially in wet weather.
We excavated the box. in June, laying bare the top outline first, and recording the process with the iPad and camera.
The children explored the box contents carefully, and placed everything they found in a plastic tub. We were in a bit of a hurry for this part, and missed a couple of objects which were excavated by enthusiastic Reception pupils!
We examined our finds, washed them, checked them against the list, and photographed them.
The project bookended Year 5's Minimus lessons, and was a great reminder of the close links between the characters and stories of Minimus and the archaeology of Vindolanda.

Monday, June 09, 2014


My Year 5 pupils have been testing the new vocabulary page on the Minimus website. There are flashcards and tests for each of the first four chapters, plus a set of masculine and feminine animal nouns to identify.

We can confirm that it all works properly on an iPad as well as a PC!
When I have time, I shall add more chapter sets, as well as military and medical words.



Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Disgusting Dinner

This is a story I wrote for my Year 6 pupils, who were practising the dative case. they had a lot of fun illustrating the sentences after translating them.
1. ancilla cenam parat. 

2. ancilla cenam agricolae dat.

3. agricola cenam gustat sed cena foeda est.

4. agricola cenam gallinis dat.

5. gallinae cenam devorant.

6. cena foeda gallinas necat.

7. agricola gallinas mortuas portat et ancillae monstrat.

8. ancilla gallinas parat et agricolae dat.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Recreating the Gladiator Glass

In 1991 a fantastic piece of glass painted with gladiators was excavated at Vindolanda, and in 2007 another piece of the same glass turned up, 20 metres away. It's been voted Vindolanda's best artefact. I thought it would make a good project for the new Minimus in Practice book.

I started with a line drawing that I drew and scanned in. I adjusted it to fit inside a plain glass (it's a Nutella jar).

I bought a set of Pebeo Porcelaine glass markers online, making sure I had the right range of colours (no neon brights or glitter!) The pens were much easier to use than glass paint out of a jar (although I suspect they won't last as long).

I'm fairly pleased with the outcome. I think I'll let my Year 5 pupils loose on this technique next term!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Animalia aenea

Here are four of my "bronze" animals, made of polymer clay and painted with several coats of bronze water-based paint. They are all based on Roman originals. The leopard is from Vindolanda.

We are going to have a Minimus Craft lesson this week - animalia aenea, samian ware and more. Pictures will follow!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New lamps for old...

I had always wanted to try making a Roman lamp, now that we have an efficient kiln at school. So I did some research on how pottery lamps were made.

 Many lamps were mass-produced in plaster or pottery moulds, such as this example from Vindolanda.   

I was pleased to discover that the biggest name in factory lamps was Fortis, as seen on this lamp from Modena. It was such a famous brand that other makers forged the stamp on their lamps. 

I started with a solid lamp shape made of clay (plasticine would have worked just as well). Then I poured a 2cm layer of plaster into a plastic margarine tub. When that was just set, I put the clay lamp in place, then poured more plaster to half way up the lamp. 

I left this layer to set hard then drilled out four holes, about 1cm round and deep, with the tip of a knife. These are sockets, and the upper mould will have lugs to fit them. 

I covered the plaster surface with Vaseline. Then I poured the third plaster layer, ending about 2cm above the lamp. Next day I took the mould out of the tub, and separated the two parts. Then I scraped out the clay, and cut the name into the bottom half of the mould. 

I rolled out terracotta clay about 1/2 cm thick, and pressed it tightly into the mould. Then I trimmed the top edges, damped them and put the two mould parts together, fixing them with rubber bands. I left it to dry for several days. The final stage before firing was to drill a wick hole and an air hole. The large hole is used for filling, but it ended up a bit bigger than I wanted it. Finally I fired it. 

It took a fair bit of time, but I have been able to make three lamps from the mould so far, and plan to make more when I get round to it!

Minimus would like this beautiful bronze mouse lamp!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Minimus tops the charts!

Minimus is at the top of Amazon's bestsellers list, in the Ancient History category!

It's great news, especially in the week that Minimus In Practice goes on sale. It's our cross-curricular resource book for teachers, and it features, among other things, 150 new mouse drawings...

Find out more here