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Friday, March 27, 2015

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road {The Unlikely Homeschool}

As the old saying goes, at one time, all roads really DID lead to Rome. One of the largest was the Via Egnatia that the apostle Paul and his friends Timothy and Silas traveled on to spread the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world. It was in large part due to this and other "modern" roads that we have Paul's letters.

Roman roads were impressive 4-layer highways complete with water-drainage plans. They were built by Roman soldiers during the empire expansion and used for military travel and eventually trade. Covering over 85,000 kilometers, the road system first began around 500 BC with the Via Appia and can still be seen meandering across Europe today.


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Living-Literature Resources


While reading through the following great resources about Roman military might, architecture, and expansion, the kids and I decided to make our own small version of a Roman road:

The Romans by Joan Forman

Because of the nature of the materials we were working with, this was a four-part project and spanned over a two-week time frame. 

You will need:

the lid to a cardboard box
plaster of paris
sand
water
flat, smooth stones
small, smooth rocks
unused fish-tank gravel in earth tones
larger, flat stones or broken pieces of broken ceramic bathroom tile
water
an old bucket or mixing bowl
a large stir stick or disposable spoon

(I was able to find all the stones and fish tank gravel at the dollar store.)

Directions:

First Layer

The first layer in a Roman road was made of compacted sand and had a drainage ditch along each side where edge stones were eventually placed to provide a border.

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road {The Unlikely Homeschool}

In an old bucket or bowl, mix together two or three cups of sand, plaster or paris, and water to make a concrete-like paste. (I'm a dump and sprinkle kind of cook and craftswoman, so I can't give you exact amounts here.)

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Pour the sand-paste into the box lid and spread around with a stir stick or disposable spoon. Leave about two inches on one side of the box to show the layer-effect. Begin to place the flat, smooth stones along the two long-sides of the road. (In hindsight, I wished we would have left the placement of the edge stones until the very last layer so that they would have actually stuck up out of the road like an edge. Ya' live. Ya' learn.)

Allow the plaster to dry thoroughly overnight or longer. (Please note: Plaster of paris begins to harden almost immediately. So, work quickly to spread each layer out before it dries.)

Second Layer

The second layer of a Roman road was made of slabs of stone mixed with cement.


Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road {The Unlikely Homeschool}

In the bucket, mix together several handfuls of small but smooth rocks, plaster of paris, and water. If the mixture is too runny, add a handful of sand. Beginning about one to two inches from the end of the sand layer, pour the rock mixture. Using the backside of the spoon, spread the rocks out as flat and as evenly as possible all the way to the edges and back-half of the box. 

Allow to dry overnight or for several days.

Third Layer

The third layer of a Roman road was a mixture of gravel and concrete mortar. 

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road {The Unlikely Homeschool}

In the bucket, mix together plaster of paris and water until it is pourable, but not too soupy. Beginning about one to two inches from the end of the small rock layer, pour the plaster to the edges and corners of the back-half of the box. Immediately begin to sprinkle gravel onto the wet plaster and press lightly with your fingers to set the gravel firmly into the plaster. 

Allow to dry overnight or for several days.

(The first time we did this layer, we did not act fast enough...even with five people working together...So, we ended up having to pour a light layer of plaster over again. Working at rapid speed, we spread and pressed gravel before the plaster set. You've been warned!)

Fourth Layer

The fourth layer of a Roman road was made up of large, flat paving-type stones.

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road

Mix together plaster of paris and water to the same consistency as the third layer. Beginning about one to two inches from the end of the gravel layer, pour ONLY about an inch or two of plaster. Then immediately, start pressing in the larger, flat stones or broken pieces of ceramic tile. As soon as you have pressed in an adequate amount of stones to that area, pour one or two more inches of plaster and repeat...working your way inch-by-inch towards the back-edge of the box.

(DO NOT try to pour and level ALL the plaster for layer four at once before adding the paving stones. The plaster will dry way too rapidly for you to be able to press the stones in deep enough. Slow and steady, my friend. Slow and steady.)

Continue pouring and pressing until the top layer is complete. 

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Leave yourself plenty of days on the calendar to see this project to completion. Each step only took about ten minutes to accomplish, but the drying and setting time extended the entire effort. 

But, as has been said, Rome wasn't built in a day. So neither was this road!

Ancient Rome Unit: DIY Roman Road {The Unlikely Homeschool}

2 comments:

  1. That's awesome! That would be beautiful displayed as artwork. Maybe cut away the visible card board and display under a canvas with scripture from Paul's writings. I may have to try this unit study as well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great idea. The plaster and rock combo makes it very heavy so I don't think it could be mounted easily, but maybe set out on a shelf somewhere.

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