Back Row Heckling

"Don't you take anything serious?"

1,012 notes


Ancient post-it notes!


How often do you reach for a Post-It note? Maybe you’re making that to do list, or figuring out your groceries. But you know, what if you lived BEFORE Post-It notes or scrap paper? What would you use then?

In Thebes, where these examples are from, and across the Roman Empire, scraps of used and broken pottery would be used to scribble quick notes. These examples are called ostraka. Most of the ostraka that our conservators and curators are studying right now contain notes on taxes and granary receipts from the second century AD.

The notes are written in Greek script. Kay Sunahara, ROM archaeologist studying these pieces, described the Greek langage at the time as, “the lingua franca of the Mediterranean”. Greek was the most frequently used written language, used to help bridge the gap between speakers of different languages, much like English today.

The majority of these pieces we’re found and acquired in the early 1900’s by none other than ROM founder Charles T. Currelly.

So how are these scrap pieces of pottery useful to archaeology today? Are grocery lists really that vaulabe? For archaeologists, ostraka provide them with a great deal of information about the people who left these notes in the first place. Information such as what people were eating, trading for, in trouble for, and the prices of things, give us a unique look into those who lived far before us, in this case well over a thousand years ago.

Interestingly enough, it also shows us just how similar we are to those who lived long before. Everyone needs groceries, and a reminder letter, maybe from their mom, or from their husband, of what to get from the store.

National Archaeology Day takes place on October 20th at the ROM and many other museums around the world!

2 notes


         I drove out to see real country.  Not a quiet place to hide where no one would follow. I wanted a real escape from asphalt and steel. I was out there to know that in the world I could gather up with my eyes I could count the people in it on my hands alone.  So I drove out there, and it actually doesn’t take long to find those open spaces. These were somehow wrong though, not what I was looking for. These were lonely places, sad places, fields and rough-wood barns with ghosts that linger on the edges of them. While it had its own appeal to my Romantic soul it was not the journey on I was on at present. I needed to find the patch of earth that man had retreated from in awe of natural forces, here was the conquered land, the empire of old forgotten by most.

          So I moved on westward and northward.  Headed to towns who could elect pets to be mayor and no one complained because they knew him to be trustworthy, in states barely able to scrape together the two senators which is their right by law (we would send the town mayor but he’s too gentle for real politics).  There it was in the hills and valleys I found that real country. The sacred space the first men knew was special and made it known to the new men that here was open land for use by all and claimed by none.  I sat in the dust of this place, ferried the loose grass on my shoes and pay deference to the rocks who had right of way.  Then I packed it all up and headed back, to wait for the next time I needed to see what was out there.

Filed under writing Wednesday travel