#TAG.11 The Roman Tablets
Images: © MOLA from the ‘Bloomberg Collection’
Exhibition #TAG.11 – The Roman Tablets
27/05/21 – 18/06/21
Private View: Thursday 27 May 2021 / 5-7pm
Based on history topic: ‘The Romans’
Tickets £3 each
Buy from school reception/entrance on the night
Children under 12 years free.
Join year 5&6 in celebrating the written word as they reflect on our ancient past and voice opinion on their education today. Narratives carved into beeswax hang, temporarily suspended in time.
More than 400 fragments of Roman waxed writing tablets were discovered on the site of the new Bloomberg London building in the City of London between 2010/14 during an excavation led by the Museum of London Archaeology. The collection is the largest and earliest of its kind in Britain and includes the first known reference to London and the earliest hand-written document in Britain.
87 of the many writing tablets that were found have been carefully deciphered from scratches marked into the surface of preserved wood. Financial accounts, legal documents, personal letters and evidence of writing for educational purposes have been revealed. The wooden tablets speak directly from the past bringing Roman Britain to life as early as 14 years following the Roman Invasion in AD.XLIII, (That’s AD.43).
Our project was informed by the report Roman London’s First Voices by Roger Tomlin which goes into great detail describing the quality and function of the tablets. Dimensions, the type of wood used, the process of manufacture is clearly illustrated and explained. This hooked us into the past and gave us a fascinating basis from which to develop our art making with children.
The wax writing tablet is an ingenious Roman invention and a brilliant example of ancient recycling! The tablets could be used multiple times by smoothing over the surface of the wax with a hot metal spatular thereby melting away previous markings. There is the theory too that the wood used to make the tablets was sourced from barrels. The wooden staves (strips of the cask) were cut into smaller sections to create pocket sized panels or frames to hold the wax. So we can see how economical and practical the Romans were with materials, design and function.
Years 5 and 6 made their own wax tablets and used them for various purposes. Class 5W and 6C used them as an educational tool to practice the latin alphabet or wrote letters to family describing their new Roman villa. Class 5/6M wrote letters to our Secretary for Education, Gavin Williamson expressing their opinion on their education today. Class 5J and 6T made smaller wax labels listing items for a Roman shop. They also explored a simple casting technique using clay and molten wax to create Roman capitals – the letters seen on stone carved inscriptions.
The excavation site in which the past was so brilliantly revealed is also the ancient site of The Temple of Mithras. Situated within Bloomberg’s new European headquarters, London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE is an exciting cultural hub showcasing a selection of the remarkable Roman artefacts found during the dig.
Download additional information about the exhibition here (PDF).
THANK YOU London Honey Co.
The London Honey Company are purveyors of the finest single-origin, pure raw honey, raw honeycomb, handmade 100% beeswax candles and 100% British mead.
“I enjoyed carving beeswax to create small tags because you had to be so delicate but it paid off”.
“It was fascinating to see how the Latin alphabet looks and it was fun to write a sentence in Latin on our wax tablets”.
“It was so good, the art just inspires me to do art and it feels good… now I know how to be like a Roman”.
Techniques: Making wax writing tablets. Cardboard frame, beeswax plate. Children then wrote into the wax with a wooden stylus. Plus a clay mould & beeswax cast following the shape of Roman Square capitals as seen on stone inscriptions.