One hand holds a round piece of dough while the other hand makes a line in the dough with a chopstick

It’s time for me to practice Cuneiform, a 5,000-year-old writing form that’s considered to be the first known. I’m intimidated and intrigued; I have watched all the tutorials and it looks so fun, even meditative.

I try to picture an ancient Mesopotamian scribe at work. A beginning scribe could be as young as 7 years old, whereas I am 37. An ancient scribe would likely use a reed sourced from a marsh in Iraq and expertly cut down to the ideal shape. I am using a square wooden dowel bought on the internet. An ancient scribe would work in clay and I am working with cookie dough (ancient history never tasted so good).

Round clay disc with lines running horizontally and crisscrossed lines on the left

Not a cookie. This cuneiform tablet is 4000 years old. Cuneiform tablet: student exercise tablet, ca. 2000–1500 B.C., Babylonian. Clay, 3 x 1 1/8 in. Metropolitan Museum of Art 86.11.251

One thing we have in common is that we are both practicing on round, handheld tablets. A beginning scribe might impress lines across the tablet as guides while they practice making Cuneiform marks, like on the sheets of lined paper I used to practice my letters in first grade.

Unlike clay, my cookie tablets won’t last for 5,000 years. They may not even last a day because they are so good! The cookies taste delicious and the spices give them a unique flavor. Ginger, all-spice, cinnamon, and cardamom are all spices used in Middle Eastern cooking, so with every bite, I am reminded of where Cuneiform originated and feel connected to the past.

Feeling inspired?

Follow our recipe to make Cuneiform Cookies and get to work. Who knows?  You may even be inspired to re-create the stunning, elaborate ancient text like the Tablet with a Bilingual Dictionary from King Ashurbanipal’s Library

Rectangular clay tablet with script carved into it

Tablet with a Bilingual Dictionary from King Ashurbanipal’s Library, 668–627 B.C., Neo-Assyrian. Terracotta, 7 1/16 x 3 15/16 in. Musée du Louvre, Department of Near Eastern Antiquities, AO 7092. Image © Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier / Art Resource, NY

Find the Cuneiform Cookie recipe and activity here. 

This activity complements the exhibition Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins.