Archeological findings in Egypt: untold details of life in ancient times

Kyra Abbott ‘24, Student Life Editor

Recently, archeologists have made a huge discovery: they have found over 18,000 ancient Egyptian pottery fragments, which date back as far as 2,000 years. The location of the discovery site was in the ancient city of Athribis, in central Egypt. These pottery fragments—known as ostraca—were used as writing materials for everyday life in ancient Egypt. Fundamentally, ostraca is equivalent to what we call notebooks today. Based on the formatting of the writings, there are several identifiable types that these fragments fit under: shopping lists, receipts, drawings, trade information, and lists of names. 

In addition, the large discovery included other inscriptions that archeologists found to be even more interesting. Pottery fragments—written on by young students—were found in an ancient school. University of Tubingen professor Christian Leitz, who led the excavations alongside a team from Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said, “There are lists of months, numbers, arithmetic problems, grammar exercises, and a ‘bird alphabet’.” From these inscriptions, archeologists were able to gain a more detailed understanding of what school-aged children were expected to learn. Even though these inscriptions were from 2,000 years ago, the typical Egyptian school day in the past seems to be somewhat similar to a typical school day in the present. 

Based on the artifacts recovered, archeologists were able to deduce additional, unexpected facts about ancient Egyptian school life. Oscar Holland, an editor for the CNN Style digital magazine, said, “Hundreds of the pottery pieces also featured a single symbol repeated on both front and back, which archeologists believe to be evidence of ‘naughty pupils’ being [forced] to write lines.” This type of punishment is most commonly known as the Bart Simpson punishment. The term refers to the opening credits of The Simpsons TV show, where Bart Simpson is pictured writing the same sentence on the school chalkboard over and over again until he writes it out a total of 100 times. Based on these artifacts, archeologists were able to gain more knowledge about the form of punishment for a poorly behaved student. 

According to researchers, it was extremely rare to discover such a large number of inscripted pottery fragments. These findings were very surprising because “a discovery of this size has only been made once before, near the Valley of the Kings in Luxor,” Alia Shoaib, a junior reporter for the Insider online magazine, said. These past findings mainly consisted of inscriptions about medicine and medical practices. The discoveries made most recently, however, detail the daily life of ancient Egyptian adults and children. With these discoveries, archeologists were able to increase their knowledge about the patterns of daily life regarding one of the most powerful civilizations in ancient history. 

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