The earliest form of writing was invented 5300 years ago in Mesopotamia. Unlike the 26 letters in the English alphabet, the Sumerians developed small word-signs or images for specific foods, grains, fish, and animals. For example, the word Œduck¹ might show a small picture of a duck.
Writing was done on a wet clay tablet using a wedge-shaped reed stick to draw lines and make picture words. This early form of writing is called cuneiform. (This word comes from the Latin word for 'wedge').
The people that wrote using clay tablets were called scribes. They were nearly always men. To become a scribe, a student started scribe school at 12 years of age. It took twelve years of study to become a scribe. Student scribes learned mathematics, accounting, and Sumerian cuneiform. The student
learned to write letters and contracts. Each student was required to memorize and write 1,500 Sumerian symbols for 1,500 different words.
Students used their right hand. To prevent smudging of words previously written, students wrote from left to right on the wet clay tablet. All writing was done from top to bottom within vertical lines.
This historical collection includes an acrylic resin replica of a student-scribe tablet. The clay tablet is round and easy for the young student to hold in his hand. On one side of the round tablet the teacher wrote a student lesson. The student copied the teacher¹s exercise on the opposite side.