Friday, 26 October 2012

Cuneiform Writing activity

Having begun our studies in Mesopotamia we took a slight detour to understand the history of writing.  This discussion came up after visiting the British Museum and seeing cuneiform writing and the famous Rosetta Stone.

While observing the Rosetta Stone (this is a model) the children were able to see the 3 different writings on the Rosetta Stone; Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphs.  Which then brought out the question, "how do we know what cuneiform says and is there something out there similar to the Rosetta stone that helps us decipher Cuneiform."  While browsing the museum bookstore I a bought the book The Story of Writing by Carol Donoughue.

Cuneiform writing means "wedge shaped" and is believed to be first written around 3000BC.  The book first explains that the very earliest writing was pictogram shapes and then slowly evolved into more straight lines as it was easier to do on clay or stone.  The last cuneiform writing that has been found has been dated to 75 AD and then this type of writing fell out of favor as other forms of writing became more popular.

It wasn't until Sir Henry Rawlinson found a gigantic inscription in 1840 on a cliff near the town of Bisitum in Iraq that cuneiform writing began to be deciphered.  Here writings were found in Old Persian, Babylonian and Cuneiform.  Once Sir Rawlinson deciphered Persian and Babylonian he was able to decipher the Cuneiform writing.

The kids and I got out some clay and tried a little Cuneiform writing of our own.

Rolling out the dough to get a smooth surface

Looking at the book to get some ideas

First we tried drawing a pictogram of a fish (top of the clay) and then tried writing it in Cuneiform form (below) to see if curve lines were really harder to do in clay than straight lines.

Next we found the alphabet and attempted to write out names.  Now we read that of most cuneiform writing doesn't have vowels but our cuneiform alphabet did.

Princess did well with this type of writing.

Little Man's attempt.  He thought this was very difficult and got easily frustrated.
It was a fun activity for us to try, but both kids felt our modern alphabet was a whole lot easier:)!!  Maybe they will complain less when doing their writing assignments from this point forward...I can only hope:).


  1. Haven't been by in awhile, hope everything is well! This was such a cool activity to reiterate the type of writing! Super cool! Did you get to actually see the real Rosetta Stone or just the model?


  2. I wonder how they could tell if a word said "cat" or "cut" without vowels??? Clearly context helped some, but if every word was missing vowels, it seems like it would be hard to even develop a sense of context.

  3. Stopping by from Learning All The Time...What a great idea!

  4. new follower :) return the favor thanks! cute stuff

  5. I can't help but smile on this one. You come up with such unique things to study and do. I loved the pictures and especially the ones of your children doing their writing assignment on clay. It is so true we should never stop learning and I continue to learn so much from just following your adventures.
    You are just amazing.
    Blessings and hugs!

  6. Very cool! The book looks like it was very helpful, and what a great activity to help the kids learn about cuneiform.
    Thanks for linking at Favorite Resources :)

  7. Very, very cool activity! I am pinning this for the next time we do the ancients.