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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsOK, so I will try to make an inscription here in ancient cuneiform, using some plasticine tablet and a stylus. Originally, of course, the stylus would have been a lot prettier than this, and it would have been made of reed growing on the river banks of the rivers, the Euphrates or the Tigris. This one was made by Glenn, I think, on his way to work from some twig that he found. It's not very pretty, but it will do. So let's see what we can do. I'm going to start by writing a number. It's very easy. One, two, three. It's really ugly I don't do this very often. Some of my colleagues do this a lot. I don't.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsLike that now Because I like the administrative text, so I'm going to do an administrative text here. I'm going to do this. One, two, three, four, five. And that now means-- it's ugly, but it's readable to an ancient scribe.

Cuneiform Demonstration

In this video, Magnus will spell out a sentence he has found in an accountants clay tablet. He demonstrates how cuneiform was actually written by scribes with the help of a stylus.

At the end of the clip, Magnus has written ‘Three Great Goats’. Can you figure out which cuneiform word translates as which English word based on the things you have learnt over the last few steps? We’ve not shown you the word for ‘goat’ yet, but can you guess which cuneiform word it must be?You’ll notice some variation in the way words can be written, so you’ll need to be flexible in your approach!

Well done. This is far from easy to teach in a short space of time, but hopefully you’ve got a sound, basic understanding of how cuneiform works. Not bad for an hour or two’s work!

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This video is from the free online course:

Superpowers of the Ancient World: the Near East

University of Liverpool