Cuneiform was one of the earliest types of writing. It started in Mesopotamia, and was used by various cultures including the Assyrians and Babylonians and early Persians.
Writing your name or a message in cuneiform can be a fun way for kids to explore ancient Mesopotamian history. But to write cuneiform you need a certain type of stick with an edge to it.
We made our own cuneiform styluses by cutting a stick so it has a flat end, and then carving the end in the shape of a triangle. It's really quite easy...if you can use a knife to whittle off the bark of a stick you can do this.
But if you don't feel like carving, there's another option. Chop sticks (the wooden kind they give you at Chinese restaurants) already come with a flat edge. The end of the chopstick is in the shape of a square, not in the shape of a triangle, but it will still work for many of the cuneiform alphabets as it still gives you that wedge shape. The only shape you can't do is a straight down triangle stamp, which not all cuneiform alphabets use.
Next, you flatten out a piece of play dough or air dry clay (which can be bought at Hobby Lobby, Micheal's, and various other hobby stores). If using clay I suggest doing this on a surface like a plastic place mat...or a paper plate, plastic wrap or another disposable surface, as clay tends to stick to things and be hard to clean.
Then, using one of the alphabets linked below (under the video) use the method shown in the video to make your cuneiform. Notice how he uses the edge to make wedge shaped impressions. You don't need to "trace" out triangles, but use the natural shape of the stylus to make those for you.
Here are some cuneiform alphabets you can try, in order of simplicity....
- Ugaritic Alphabet (c. 1300 BC ) More about it.
- Old Persian Alphabet
(c. 550-486 BC). Created by or under Darius I, who is mentioned in
the biblical books of Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah (for those supplementing with Bible stories, around Chap 21 of SOTW).
- Babylonian Alphabet and Numbers (c. ?) and More Babylonian Numerals (c. 2000 BC)
- Sumerian Syllabary
(c. 2200 BC) First phonetic cuneiform, and kinda complex but older
students might enjoy looking at it (symbols were by syllables, so "ba,
be, bi, bu" would all be separate alphabetic symbols). Some modern
scripts, such as Japanese, are structured similarly. There is a
simplified sumerian "alphabet" here though.