Make a Cuneiform tablet - West Asia Projects
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Make a Cuneiform Tablet

Cuneiform tablet
Cuneiform tablet, made by kids at
Laurelhurst School, Portland Oregon

About 3500 BC, people in West Asia began to use writing. Because nobody had invented paper yet, these people wrote on clay tablets, scratching the words in with a reed pen. You can use clay and a stick (or a reed) to make your own cuneiform tablet, either copying a real cuneiform inscription, or making up your own symbols.

Cuneiform tablet
Another cuneiform tablet from Laurelhurst School
This one represents the use of numbers for tax accounts

As you work, think about how writing on a clay tablet is different from or the same as writing on paper. Is it harder or easier? What do you do about erasing mistakes? What would happen to it in a fire? Can you write as small as you can on paper? Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of paper and clay tablets.

More about cuneiform writing
More about Sumerian mathematics

Bibliography and further reading:

Molding clay bricks
Bicycle racing
Backgammon project
West Asian games
A day in West Asia
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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