The Ancient World – Ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome

Costume Suggestions

GENERIC HINT ONE: Do internet searches for images of specific characters, like “Cleopatra”, or do a generic “Ancient Romans” type of image search for visual representations of costuming.

GENERIC HINT TWO: Do internet searches for Do-It-Yourself costuming pages for instructions or ideas on how to make your own costumes.

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to Ancient World costumes. The first image conjured in most minds when we think of these four Ancient Civilisations is probably Egyptians. So, the initial go to for Ancient World costumes would generally be Cleopatra or a Pharaoh, but the Egyptians also had lots of Gods and Goddesses to choose from like Anubis and Isis. A simple white top and pants or a white short sleeve dress is a good starting point and then you just need to add some bling, gold, blue and red colours are very Egyptian. And for those who like a bit of humour there is always the good old Mummy costume.

Slaves are an easy choice for many of the Ancient World cultures and a slave costume can be super simple to make. Just a tunic (which can be an extra-large t-shirt or baggy dress tied at the waist with rope or cord…it really is that simple.

Spartans are a popular choice for representing Ancient Greece probably due to the “300” movie. Spartan armour can be made out of cardboard and painted or covered with silver duct tape or packaging tape. There are some great examples on the internet of DIY costuming for making armour from cardboard. There are also lots of Greek Gods and Goddess to choose from as well, like Poseidon, Zeus and Athena. A simple Greek costume is just a toga-like tunic or dress belted with a gold coloured cord or fabric.

Romans would have to be some of the simplest costumes to organise, but we can also step it up a bit with Legionaries, Gladiators and Gladiatrix. Again, internet search for DIY costume making sites for ideas on how to make the armour and helmets etc.  

Ancient Chinese costumes are a bit more difficult but not impossible. One traditional piece of clothing was called the Hanfu which is a basic wrap around garment that was then adapted to suit female or male. You could also go down the Mulan track, even though her period is more than 100 years after the Han Dynasty that we specifically talk about in our presentation, it is  much easier to search the internet for images of Mulan and probably more recognisable for students.  

Here are some links to DIY costuming pages:

Activity Ideas

Archaeological Dig

This can be done for any time period.

  • Organise a large box or small kiddies pool full of sand or soil.
  • Bury ‘artefacts’ – old cutlery, coins, bits of broken ceramics, old dried out chicken or beef bones, bobby pins, bits of fabric, etc.
  • Students can bring tools from home or you can supply them, maybe from your Art Department – various size paint brushes, clay working tools, etc
  • Students can first investigate and research some archaeological excavation techniques They can then use those techniques to find the buried artefacts. They can then classify these items into areas such as bone, stone, ceramics, etc
  • The students can then try and imagine the stories that are behind these artefacts – Who might have owned this item? What could it have been used for? How did it end up lost and buried? 

Egyptian Focus Activities

  • Have students investigate the Ancient Egyptian game Senet, make the boards and learn how to play. Here is a link to a simple way to make a board and easy instructions on how to play

  • In Egyptian writing they left out most vowels. Have students write letters to each other using no vowels and see if they can decipher them.
  • Have students think about Egyptian tombs – What items would they want in their tombs? What sort of obstacles and booby traps would they put in their pyramids/tombs to thwart grave robbers?
  • Here is an ancient recipe for Egyptian Tiger Nut Sweets
  • Get artsy and make some Egyptian headwear using pipe cleaners or cardboard and decorating. Below are a few links to making headpieces out of cardboard:

Greece/Sparta Focus Activities

Greek Gods activity: Zeus is retiring – Apply for his job!

  1. Have students research Zeus or tell them about him, focusing on his attributes, his personality, his strengths and weaknesses, his good points, his bad points, his powers, etc keeping in mind that he was the King of all the Gods and that he had been elected to this positions by the Olympians.
  2. Now announce that Zeus has decided to retire so there will need to be an election to vote one of the other Gods/Goddesses in as King/Queen of all the Gods.
  3. Divide students into groups (as many as you like) and either give each team the name of a God/Goddess or have them draw names from a hat.
  4. Students now have to research their God/Goddesses focusing on their personalities and characteristics, remembering that the Greek Gods had particular powers and domains that they were master of, such as hunting and warfare or love and beauty etc, they also had very different personalities with all sorts of foibles and eccentricities.
  5. Students must now create an election campaign for their God/Goddess. Campaigns can utilise posters, chants, catchy phrases, spy reports, and even smear campaigns. Remember – the Ancient Greeks were very smart, but they could also be very tricky.

  • Have an Ancient Greek Lunch Feast. Students can research Ancient Greek Foods, taking into account the differences between what we think of as Greek foods today and what was actually available to them in the Ancient World. Have students bring a plate of traditional food to share or make some traditional Greek food at school to share Here is a link to a simple Ancient Greek recipe

Rome Focus Activities

  • Visit the Vindolanda Museum website to find some fascinating information about Ancient Romans. Some of the archaeological finds from this site are great for helping students relate to ancient people as real human beings not just stories. Here is a link to their Top 10 Finds page Particularly interesting are the Vindolanda Tablets: letters and other documents written on thin pieces of wood discussing everyday things like ‘birthdays and underpants’. Again, helping students connect with people from the past.   
  • Make a class mosaic. You can use tile and grout on a wooden board if you want to be really ambitious or you can just use different coloured paper or card.
  • Make this origami Roman Helmet
  • Romans loved dice games. Have students investigate some Roman dice games and then teach each other to play them. You can get large packets of six-sided dice quite cheaply at discount stores or students could bring some from home.
  • Students can make and learn to play Latrunculi, a Roman type of Chess. A simple board and pieces can be made from card or paper. Here is a link to a quick instructional video

China Focus Activities

  • Students can make a board and learn to play the Ancient Chinese game of Go. Thought to have been developed in China between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago, it is considered to be one of the oldest games still played in its original form. Here is a link and a video tutorial on how to play:
  • The Ancient Chinese invented paper between 50-121AD. People were writing before that but on materials like wood, stone and bone. The Ancient Egyptians used papyrus much earlier, but paper was a Chinese invention. Have students make their own paper,  here is a link to a papermaking tutorial video:
  • The Ancient Chinese also invented Kites and used them for many reasons such as testing wind direction, measuring distances and for sending messages including military communications. The first kites were made of silk and bamboo, later they were made of paper. Working in teams, student can design and make their own paper kites. They will need to think about shapes and materials, how to make them aerodynamic and how to steer them. Then take them out and try sending messages across the oval: does their design fly? Are they able to steer it to land where they want it to? How does the wind affect their kite?