Today we went back to ancient Mesopotamia and took a look at the history of writing. Where did it come from? What did it look like?
We’re making our way through The Usborne Book of Discovery, which is a fabulous book that documents inventors, scientists, and explorers throughout the history of the world. We’ve started off with Inventors and what they invented. It begins by discussing things like the wheel and inclined plains, but then goes on to talk about the discovery of the construction of the Roman arch and central heating via an underground furnace whose heat was channeled into the structure and heated the house.
In these beginning pages, it discusses the history of writing. No one knows for sure who first developed writing, but the first example we have of it were scrawled as pictographs on clay tablets c. 3200BC by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia.
The Usborne Book of Discovery states that “five hundred years later, nearby people, like the Babylonians, Persians and Assyrians, had adapted this kind of writing into a type known as cuneiform (meaning “wedge-shaped”). They used a reed with a triangular-shaped end to make inscriptions in clay.”
There is a great series of videos on YouTube, called Thoth’s Pill, that talks about the history of writing. Videos 3 & 4 in the series specifically mentions Cuneiform.
We decided to make our own clay cuneiform tablets. We used some Crayola Air Dry Clay and a stylus made from a disassembled clothespin to make our marks in the clay.
I found an cunieform alphabet online and let the kids use that to inscribe their own words, names or secret message in their clay.
This video gives you an up close detail of how to write using the stylus in the clay. (Skip to the 1:06 mark).
The clay will dry and become hard just like the original tablets of the time. Perhaps one day someone will find theirs and translate their secret messages!