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While Saint Barbara's Church has been a long-lasting example of ancient Coptic architecture, it resembles the shape of ancient Basilicas.

It comprises an entrance, a narthex, a long nave, several aisles and three sanctuaries.

Harpastum was played on a rectangular field with boundary lines and a line across the centre of the pitch.

The object of the game – played by 5 to 12 players – was to keep the ball in your own half, with your opponents trying to steal it.

The use of passing and tackling bears a striking resemblance to rugby or the medieval mob football which took its inspiration from the Roman settlers.

Over time, similar games associated with religious rites spread throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Contested by two teams of between two and six players, its object was to manipulate a solid rubber ball into a suspended stone hoop.

Players were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands or feet, only their thighs, hips and upper arms.

There are several other icons on the southern aisle of the church, representing the Virgin Mary and Jesus when he was a child, Jesus entering Jerusalem and the baptism of Christ.

On Thursday 12th November we welcome Dr Ben Outhwaite from the University of Cambridge for the next lecture of the RAS 2015-16 Lecture Series.

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