Making Mesopotamian Clay Tablets and Writing Messages in Cuneiform

Mesopotamian Fun

Today was a beautiful day in Colorado and we took advantage of the gorgeous weather by bringing our homeschooling outside. We started by reviewing our times tables by playing Skip Count Catch with a Nerf football. (CLICK HERE to read about other fun drills for teaching Multiplication facts.) After we watched an excellent short video on how Sumerian scribes wrote in cuneiform (link at the end of the post), I brought out the clay. We each formed our own tablet. I made mine in the shape of a “10-Commandments-style” tablet like you see in the drawings of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai. In place of proper styluses, we simply used wooden BBQ skewers.

V H making tablets

The kids and I had lots of fun writing our messages using a modified Cuneiform “alphabet.” (There is no Sumerian alphabet that matches exactly to our English letters. I explained to the kids that much of the Sumerian writing system was based on symbols that stood for entire words rather than phonetic sounds. Those phonetic symbols that did exist, do not translate well to English. But, for the sake of having something to copy, we used a Sumerian alphabet that had been created by using some Sumerian symbols that do actually match with English sounds and then improvising other letters.) I’ve included the alphabet chart below in case you would like to use it.

cuneiform-alphabet

This photo shows my completed tablet. If you use the alphabet guide in the photo, can you decipher my message written in Cuneiform? Let me know in the comments if you are able to complete the translation.

tablet with alphabet print out

To complete this project, we bought 5 lbs. of Rocky Mountain terracotta clay. I highly recommend it. It was easy to mold and is self-drying. We had enough for three tablets and plenty left over for future projects. Here’s a link if you want to get the same:


CLICK HERE to add Rocky Mountain Red Clay to Your Amazon Wish List

Here is the link to the video from the Oriental Institute discussing Sumerian scribes and their writing system:

2 comments

  1. “Not all who wander are lost.” The W was the trickiest to match. To be fair though, I know a lot of cipher tricks, plus I know the quote. That meant I only needed to match a few of the letters, and then my brain filled in the rest automatically. Clever idea, though! I’ll have to try this.

    Like

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