Teaching cuneiform in the Night of Sciences

On 10th January, a team of ANEE members and students gave a cuneiform workshop in the science event Tieteiden yö (”Night of Sciences”). Even though reading, let alone writing, cuneiform is difficult, it's possible to get a grasp of the basics in a short workshop.

Tieteiden yö is an annual event promoting science in Helsinki. On that Thursday evening there were various events in more than 20 locations, all aimed to the public and free of charge. We were organising our workshop in Tieteiden talo (”The House of Sciences”) together with a 100-year old learned society The Finnish Oriental Society.

In two hours we met dozens of people being or becoming interested in cuneiform and ancient Near East. We taught many of them to write their names on clay, but some people also asked something more complicated we had to check from the dictionaries. The youngest of the participants was mostly making clay lollipops – it was great to meet people in all ages. We got also involved in various interesting discussions varying from astronomical cuneiform texts to ancient music, and Aleksi Sahala presented his Elementary Sumerian book (2017) to many of the visitors.

My own highlight for the evening was perhaps a child around 12-year old who recognised the script we were practising: ”We just had in the history class a picture showing how these signs evolved through the time!” Now she'll probably remember something about cuneiform for all her life – at least when finding the tablet she wrote at some later point in her life.

If you want to try writing your own name with Neo-Assyrian cuneiform, you can find the sheet we used from here.