Wednesday, November 22, 2006
My year 9 class visited the Nicholson Museum at Sydney Uni yesterday. Their collection focuses more on Egypt and Greece than on Rome, but they have a lot of interesting things there (including a great collection of mummies). Their hands-on program for students is particularly good. They take you down in to the depths of the museum and give you a tray of objects such as coins, bits of pottery, canopic jars, oil lamps, votive statues and tools, and you get to play at being a real archaeologist. They get you to do a quick sketch of an object, then to think about what it’s made of, what it might have been used for, who might have used, and what can it tell us about life in the ancient world.
The museum also has a few interesting Latin inscriptions. Here’s one of them:
DEPOSSIO HILARES QVE
VIXIT ANNUS VII M VNO D
XIII DEPOSITA DIAE VII IDUS
SEPT RICOMEDE ET CLYARCO CONS
This means something like:
The burial of Hilary, who lived 7 years, one month, 13 days, buried on the 7th day before the Ides of September, during the Consulship of Ricomedes and Clearchus.
It’s an interesting inscription for a few reasons. Firstly it doesn’t start as most grave inscriptions do with a dedication to the spirits of the underworld (DM for DIS MANIBUS). This seems to be because the family were Christians. We know this not only from the lack of dedication, but also because the gravestone includes a chi-rho, and a picture of a dove (a common Christian symbol). The words depossio and deposita (from which we get the English word ‘deposit’) also imply the Christian belief that the body has been laid aside for safe keeping until the resurrection. Secondly it gives a precise date (7th September AD 384- when Ricomedes and Clearchus were consuls), which is not all that common, and thirdly, it’s got a couple of spelling mistakes in it (QVE for QVAE and DIAE for DIE), showing that it's not only school students who sometimes get their endings wrong.