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Lesson Plan: Murals and Math

“The Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii: Ancient Ritual, Modern Muse” UMMA Teacher Workshop, October 15, 2000

Objectives

Students will calculate the cost of pigments and paint found in the houses in Pompeii, Italy. After studying the frescoes, students will convert the cost from ancient Roman prices to contemporary 

National Core Art Standards

  • Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work
  • Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding

National Core Math Standards

  • Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems

Grades 

6-8, Math or Latin

Time Required

One class period

Materials

Lesson

Examine the murals found at the Villa of the Mysteries. Provide students with as much background as necessary, from the listed website or from the following: 

The elaborate wall paintings found inside houses in Pompeii had to suit a variety of budgets.  For instance, the cost of the pigments used for Pompeian wall painting varied greatly.  White and most reds were among the least expensive colors available. In extraordinary cases, like the great frieze at the Villa of the Mysteries, the common, inexpensive red was replaced by one of the most expensive and light-sensitive pigments available: cinnabar. The price of cinnabar was limited by law to 70 denarii.  This pigment had to be protected from sunlight with special application of heated wax and oil. 

Using the information provided below, complete the calculations.

  1. If one sextarius of paint would cover about 50 sq. pes of wall, how many sextarii of paint would you have to buy to cover 240 square pes of wall (approximately the size of the longest wall in the Villa frieze)?

  2. Once you have calculated how many sextarii of paint you would need, select three of the colors below and calculate the cost of painting the wall with each color.

Money

There were 4 asses to 1 sestertius and 4 sestertii to 1 denarius.

The price of paint per sextarius

Paraetonium white cost 8 1/3 denarii.

Red ocher cost from 8 asses to 2 denarii.

Cinnabar (red) was limited by law to 70 denarii.

Yellow ocher cost from 6 asses to 2 denarii

Vestoria blue cost 11 denarii

Egyptian blue was 8 denarii

Linear Measure (very approximately rounded off)

digitus = .7 in

uncia = 1 in

palmus = 3 in

pes = 12 in

palmipes = 14.5 in

cubitus = 17.5 in

OR:

1 uncia = 1 1/2 digitus

1 palmus = 3 uncia

1 pes = 4 palmus

1 palmipes = 1 1/4 pes

1 cubitus = 1 1/5 palmipes

Volumetric Measure(very approximately rounded off)

sextarius = 0.6 liter

congius = 3.3 liter

modius = 8.8 liter

amphora = 26.3 liter

OR:

1 congius = 6 sextarii

1 modius = 3 congius

1 amphora = 3 modii


*Note on units of measurement: Pliny talks about the price of pigments by pound (or at least a funny symbol which is taken to be a pound). One pound is approximately .45 liters (or .12 gallons). If we round up generously, we can call this a sextarius (a sextarius being about .6 liters). If one gallon covers approximately 400 square feet, .12 gallons, or our rounded off sextarius, would cover approximately 50 sq ft, or 50 square pes.

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Tags
Conversion — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)
Fresco — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)
Latin — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)
Lesson — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:44 pm)
Math — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)
Mural — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)
Paint — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)
Pompeii — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)
Ratio — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:44 pm)
Villa of mysteries — by John Turner (October 13 2016 @ 2:43 pm)

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