Cuneiform Hands-On Activity

Information Theory Unit

Cuneiform was one of the first writing systems, developed 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia to record information on clay tablets. By asking students to record current complex material on a clay tablet, they will see that information needs to be simplified and codified in order to be recorded and transmitted.

Supplies per student/team

  1. Lump of modeling clay, or Play-Doh™
  2. Flat wooden ruler, or a flat popsicle stick, or a sharp pencil, or similar tool for marking clay (Search Amazon for “clay sculpting tools” for ideas and choices.)
  3. One piece of paper and a pen

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  1. Each student/team is given a message.* (See Below)
  2. Students will have 15 minutes to record the message on a clay tablet.
  3. Students then exchange tablets and try to “read” each other’s work.
  4. Students may work individually or in teams.*In order to accomplish this task effectively, and in the time frame allotted, students will have to simplify the information. To do so, they will first need to develop their own coding system for the information.


Give each student, or team, a lump of clay or Play-DohTM, and a clay marking tool as described above. Share one of the below recipes with each student or team (*the message). Explain the task, that each student/team will have 15 minutes to record the recipe they are given on the clay by using the tool/s provided. (They are making a clay tablet in 15 minutes.) When the 15 minutes are up, the clay tablet they made will be given to a different student/or team for them to “read” the information recorded on the clay. The goal is to ensure that the information provided on the clay table is “read” accurately by the other students.

Note: Students will have to shape the clay into a form that would work best for recording the recipes. Additionally, the students may want to consider creating a “coding system” that can be used by the other students to “decipher” the message. The coding system may be written on the piece of paper, however, it must be completed within the same 15 minute time frame allowed for putting the message on the clay tablet.

When engaging in the IEEE REACH hands-on activities contemplated in the IEEE REACH lesson plans please proceed with caution and use all reasonable safety measures. All IEEE REACH hands-on activities are designed for classroom use only, with supervision by a teacher or an adult educator. Please be advised that IEEE shall not be responsible for any injuries or damages related to the use of these lesson plans or any activities described herein.