Phoenician Snails and Princess Dido's Oxhide

We are moving through our Homeschool History this year, of the Ancient World.  I combed the web for ideas when we reached Chapter 15 of Story of the World.  The chapter introduces Ancient Phoenicia and the amazing purple dye that they discovered and were famous for. 

Since we live far from the sea snails used to create this dye, and since I can't really see myself crushing up snails and boiling them for days...I was trying to find an activity that would give us that experience without harming snails.  Then, I thought, "Let's just use berries!"

I told my son, "Imagine they're little snails.  They're round, small, and kinda give that squishy feeling."   So first, we mashed them.

Then we added a Tablespoon or two of water and boiled them down a bit, stirring so they wouldn't burn.  They smelled a lot nicer while they cooked then we imagined snails might.  Seriously, when the comment, "You stink like a man from Tyre!" was a royal insult back in the day, you can imagine that the factories where they made Tyrian purple were serious stink bombs.

Next, we dropped in something white.  This happened to be a nice clean sock.

 We stirred it around a bit and it turned a nice shade of maroon.  Not quite Tyrian purple, but not too far off, either.

 Once dried, it came out a kind of burgundy.  I wonder what color blackberries might end up with?

We also learned about Princess Dido and the legend of Carthage in Chapter 15.  After reading about how she tricked the locals with her mathematical oxhide trick, we decided to give this a try.  I created an "oxhide shape" on paper that my son cut out (above).

This full lesson, including the paper oxhide above, is available in our Princess Dido Full Packet in our Store.

First, we tried to see how much "land" we could cover with this paper oxhide as it appears, whole.   Then, we cut it up into thin strips and began to see how much "land" it could encircle. 

We had to move from the dining room table which was far too small, and even the living room was hardly large enough.  The difference in the size of land that could be encircled (especially with one side being made up by the ocean that bordered Carthage), gives kids a much better idea of the success of Dido's trickery.

Very fun activity.  In our Princess Dido Full Packet, we also include Dido's story, a map that shows the path she traveled from Phoenicia to northern Africa, and a lesson plan to teach this as a large group.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like "How to Make a Basket Like the Ancient Civilizations".

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