Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cuneiform Fun

In History this year the kids started from the beginning (as in...creation...the very beginning) and are currently up to the period of time when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.  We've been focusing very heavily on ancient Egypt and it's been so fun to learn about that culture.  

At the same time that Egypt was booming, the other side of the fertile crescent was exploding with culture as well.  In ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia, a leader named Hammurabi the Great ruled the land with efficiency and discipline.  He is know for the many laws he introduced which protected the weak and governed all areas of life including trade and commerce.  His law code is possibly the first of its kind to be put into writing.

The Code of Hammurabi was carved in stone using the ancient script of the Sumerians, called cuneiform, which was adapted to the Babylonian language.  One of our projects last week was to give
this ancient writing a try.  This worksheet from Veritas Press shows our alphabet as it would have looked in cuneiform.  They did have to take some artistic license because the Sumerians did not have 26 letters in their alphabet.  The letters in parentheses are the ones they added.
The kids got some clay, worked it until it was pliable, and rolled it into a flat tablet-like shape.  I had to help quite a bit with this part.  Clay is really hard to work with.  If you've never done it, I recommend having a spray bottle filled with water to wet it frequently while you knead it.

Then they took several screws in different sizes and pressed them into the clay to mimic the shapes of the cuneiform letters.

Then they took a flat nail-type thing and smoothed out the threading marks from the screws.  Emma also put lots of scratches on hers to make it look old.

This is what hers looked like after she finished.

Ben kept his neater.  Lauren made a tablet with her name carved in English, but she was having so much fun smoothing out the wet clay that her tablet ended up blank!

After the tablets dried for a day or two, we took some regular wood stain and rubbed it on with a damp rag.  On the left, Emma's tablet says "I am Emma."  On the right, Ben's tablet simply says "Ben." 

The kids really enjoyed making these and the mess wasn't too horrendous.  I wish I would have poked a couple of holes in the top while the clay was soft so we could hang them up, but I can just hot glue a hanger on the back.  I was super pleased with how these turned out.


  1. Those are AWESOME!!! What a great, fun project!!

    Visiting you today from the Hop!

  2. My daughter loves everything ancient. This looks so fun! I'm sure she would love it even though we studied Ancient times last year with Story of the World. I'll have to keep it in mind for a rainy day project!


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