Athribis (Egypte): : Writing lines was used as a punishment

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123233912 pottery shard linesHundreds of these tablets were found, with the same symbol usually written on both front and back

It's Bart Simpson's classic school punishment, but it seems pupils being told to write lines in class goes back even further than people thought.

Lines written by "naughty pupils" are among the 18,000 inscribed shards of pottery discovered at an archaeological dig site, believed to be Athribis, an ancient city in lower Egypt.

The shards, known as ostraca, were fragments of vessels and jars used as writing material around 2,000 years ago.

Ancient Egyptians used the ostraca for things like receipts, lists and even to write lines as a school punishment.

The University of Tübingen, Germany, conducted the excavation in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

123233920 twoshardsThe shards included a child's drawing (left) and a fragment of a school text with a bird alphabet (right)

According to the archaeologists, it is very rare find such a large volume of ostraca.

The pottery pieces show a glimpse into the everyday life of the ancient settlement of Athribis.

And, according to the University of Tübingen Professor Christian Leitz, who led the excavation, many of the shards originated from an ancient school.

"There are lists of months, numbers, arithmetic problems, grammar exercises and a 'bird alphabet' - each letter was assigned a bird whose name began with that letter," Professor Christian Leitz says.

A large number of ostraca also contain writing exercises that the team classifies as punishment. The shards are inscribed with the same one or two characters each time, both on the front and back.

123234181 csm 22 01 31 tonscherben 07 e3d91988d0Pictorial ostraca with a baboon and an ibis, the two sacred animals of Thoth, the god of wisdom

They also discovered a special category of ostraca which has pictures.

"These shards show various figurative representations, including animals such as scorpions and swallows, humans, gods from the nearby temple, even geometric figures," says Christian Leitz.

Ostraca were inscribed with ink and a reed or hollow stick (calamus) and were used as a cheaper form of writing material than papyrus which comes from a plant and is similar in texture to paper.

Archaeologists began digging at Athribis - which is located 40 km north of Cairo - in 2003.