Department of Greek & Latin


Teaching Greek with the Mummies

Connecting Education with the Wider World
Dr Antony Makrinos with PGTAs Federica Micucci and Rithu Fernando taught an innovative class in the Petrie Museum using some of the mummy labels with Greek from the Museum's collections. This class was part of an idea to liberate the curriculum in Classics and introduce new ways of teaching Greek to undergraduate students of the Greek and Latin Department, UCL for the course Greek for Beginners A, (GREK1001).

The aims of the class were:

To liberate the standard academic curriculum for learning Greek (until now using only textbooks)

• To use Research Based Learning (introduction to writing mummy labels)

• To use Object Based Learning (handling real mummy labels)

• To present Greek grammar and syntax with experimental forms of teaching

• To enable students to explore the meaning of short passages in Greek from material culture

• To engage students in active learning and teaching

The purpose of the class was to explore the benefits of an educational experience in which students come into contact with material culture which challenges the perception of Greek as a "dead language".

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The class included the presentation of 10 ancient mummy labels (selected out of a total of 81) by the tutor with the collaboration of a curator from the museum and the PGTAs. Students were invited to handle the mummy labels and to discuss and translate the Greek texts on them with the help of grammar and syntax learnt during the term. They were then offered photos of the Fayum portraits depicting people from Roman Egypt and were encouraged to imagine their lives and produce their mummy labels in Greek. The students were provided with replicas of ancient writing material and they were introduced to ancient writing practices through the use of stylus, ink and custom-made wooden writing tablets. The best writing samples were then donated to the Petrie Museum for their own use with the public.

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A list of the objects presented can be found below:

1. 59434 Mummy label ΩΡΟΣ ΕΤΩΝ Δ

2. 28077 Mummy label ΣΩΜΑ ΑΠΟΛΙΝΑΡΙΟΥ

3. 45639 Mummy label ΣΙΣΟΙΣ ΣΙΣΟΙΤΟΣ

4. 45647 Mummy label ΠΑΝΓΟΡΣΗΣ ΚΟΛΑΝΘΟΥ

5. 45656 Mummy label ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗ ΘΥΚΑΤΕΡΑ

6. 45640 Mummy label ΘΙΝΨΟΝΑΥΤΟΣ ΓΥΝΗ ΨΟΛΩΜ

7. 45637 Mummy label ΕΡΜΙΑΣ ΚΕΦΑΛΑΤΟΣ

8. 45644 Mummy label ΤΑΦΗ ΜΙΚΚΑΛΟΣ ΙΣΠΑΝΩ

9. 45669 Mummy label ΚΑΣΤΩΡ

10. 8456 Mummy label ΤΣΑΝΣΝΩΣ ΚΟΛΑΝΘΟΥ

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Antony's and Federica's thoughts about the class will be presented in the UCL Education Conference 2108, Panel: "Connecting Education with the wider world" (London, 16-17 April 2018). A shared talk will be presented with the title: "Teaching Greek with the mummies". The talk introduces innovative pedagogies and methodologies for the teaching of ancient languages used in the Department of Greek and Latin, UCL. The session will invite dialogue about the creative teaching of languages through visits to museums and particular emphasis will be given to activities that enhance the student experience.

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Student Feedback

- "I liked the fact that one experiences practical usage of the knowledge gained during classes as well as the chance to encounter real ancient objects…"

- "I loved the Petrie Museum class: it was a wonderful experience providing an opportunity to see that learning Ancient Greek is not 'l'art pour l'art' but leads to a deeper insight into many (and as the Egyptian portraits show not only Greek) cultures."

- "The Petrie Museum class was very enjoyable, fun and also challenging. It was a very cool experience."

- Especially the trip to the Petrie Museum was very fun and a great opportunity to learn."

- "Can't get any better!"

Many thanks to:

- Tracie Golding (Visitor Services Officer in the Petrie Museum) for working so hard in order to book the rooms and provide the mummy labels for us and for advising on how to handle and study them;

- the members of staff at the Petrie Museum for demonstrating the new application "Petrie Museum" and for encouraging the students to use it with their i-pads and smart phones.

- Federica Micucci for her enthusiasm, her expert advice for the class and her quick and efficient selection of mummy labels and other informative materials to show to the students.

- Rithu Fernando for helping with the teaching of the class.

- Filia Glyka and George Kotsioris from Woodicrafts for producing custom made mummy labels for the class and advising on their use.