A preserved tablet from 1,800 years ago proves that even children back then had to do homework. The homework was conducted by a child in ancient Egypt and the words written on the wood-mounted wax slab read, “You should accept advice from a wise many only” and “You cannot trust all your friends.” In addition to practicing their penmanship, these wise words that were written on the tablet indicate that children were also taught very important life lessons.
Written on the wax tablet was Greek homework written in two parts. One part was a writing exercise where a teacher wrote the lesson’s example on the first line followed by two lines where the child himself wrote the exact same words. The other part of the homework included reading exercises as well as a multiplication table.
Since there was no name on the tablet, it’s hard to know if it was a boy or girl, although in that time period where formal education in Egypt consisted usually of males that came from wealth, it was more than likely a boy from a rich family.
The tablet was originally acquired by the British Library in 1892 but hasn’t been on display for the public to see since the 1970s. It will, however, be back on display for a British Library exhibit named “Writing: Making Your Mark” which will detail the evolution of writing from the last 5,000 years. There will be over a hundred artifacts on display showing how the evolution of writing progressed from ancient civilizations to the more modern-day writing techniques. In addition to the wax tablet, there will also be stone monuments displaying Egyptian hieroglyphs, tattooing instruments, musical notes written by Mozart, and a copy of the classic book “Ulysses” which was written by author James Joyce.
The tablets used for homework were created by pouring black melted wax into a depression in the shape of a rectangle that was located in the middle of a wooden tablet. After the wax had cooled down, students and teachers used a metal stylus to create letters and numbers by scratching them into the wax as the scratch marks would appear lighter against the black background.
While wax usually breaks down after being exposed to moisture, this tablet was very well preserved because the region is so dry; therefore, it was very well protected over the years.