Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Making a point of Cuneiform via a mud tablet and stick stylus

Letters in Cuneiform by IslesPunkFan
Letters in Cuneiform, a photo by IslesPunkFan on Flickr.

Students secured a pinch of mud from the school yard, shaped it into a rectangle and glued it into their notebooks to celebrate learning about the Mesopotamian cuneiform writing.

The western world's earliest form of writing, the reeds cut from the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers were used to make wedge-shaped marks that looked somewhat like the profile of a golf tee.

Cuneiform tablets could be fired in kilns to provide a permanent record, or they could be recycled if permanence was not needed. Many of the clay tablets found by archaeologists were preserved because they were fired when attacking armies burned the building in which they were kept.

The script was also widely used on commemorative stelae (like the Code of Hammurabi) and carved reliefs to record the achievements of the rulers.

Mesopotamia was today's Iraq. The region, called the Fertile Crescent by historians, was later named Assyria and Babylonia.

The earliest writing was business oriented, say scholars. Numbers of bushels of grain paid for in numbers of lengths of timbers, to be paid in 8 months. Contracts. Enumerations.

The era was about 3000 BCE.

This region was also among the first to develop the wheel. First it was the potter's wheel. Later they developed the chariot wheel.

The Code of Law promulgated by King Hammurabi - about 1700 BCE - was one of the first in the western world. Again, contracts and business law were priorities. For all of its severity, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," it was also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence.