Last weekend I took Billy the Kid and Cat to see the Roman Machines exhibition at Te Manawa. Billy has been a huge fan of Roman militaria for many years.
When we arrived we discovered that the statue of Charles Monro outside the museum had been “Yarn Bombed”. He’s dressed as a Roman Gladiator – in pink!
We found the Machines easily enough – but got distracted by a Roman game laid out to try in the entranceway. It’s a game very like noughts and crosses, only the grid is bigger and it’s played with counters (in this case gray and white stones). The kids had fun playing a round.
I note that the basket holding the counters looks rather less Roman, and more like an object from closer to home….
After the game we moved on and bought our tickets. There were several other families already checking out clever wonders of the Roman era. The exhibition has a range of scale model replicas of the devices that the Romans invented, many of which are still used to this day. Cranes and catapults, water pumps and pulleys – all fully interactive. There’s a scale replica of the form used to build stone arches. Billy and Cat had a go at building an archway, carefully placing the keystone at the top.
Each part of the exhibition is accompanied by interesting details that tie it back to Rome.
Billy really likes the military stuff. Here’s a model of a Roman soldier’s armour.
We found the sidus vallis, which proved a bit of a challenge. These are sets of wooden stakes that can be put together to form a spiked defence. The kids persevered until they figured out the trick of assembling them.
I liked the model which shows how the Gladiators and wild animals were lifted up through the floor of the Coliseum. It’s very clever, and also it brought back memories of our trip last year.
I also loved the copy of the Tabula Peutingeriana. This is a fabulous map that lays out the Roman roads, stretched to fit on a loooong scroll. It marks villas which were available for travelers to stop at, graded with a type of star system. There are also ports, temples and public baths noted, all the information the Roman traveler would need to know – before the invention of Sat Nav.
Overall we spent a pleasant hour or so. I am not sure that the $28 it cost for the three of us was value for money – but I consider it a donation towards the cost of the free parts of Te Manawa that we’ve enjoyed several times already and will continue to enjoy.
Here’s a video that I found which has been put together by another visitor to the exhibition. It’s somewhere other than Te Manawa, and I haven’t been able to figure out where exactly it is. But check it out.