For larger classes you may wish to divide the class into small groups and have each group work on answering one of the following questions, which they should share with the rest of the class. Why do the students think that the ancient Mesopotamians decided to change the writing system from just pictures pictographs to the cuneiform shapes?
Students should note that pictographic images have a limited ability to communicate such things as abstractions, sounds and certain parts of speech.
Ask students to think about the following questions as they track the evolution of civilization and writing in ancient Mesopotamia: What kinds of tasks can be accomplished without writing? This first activity will introduce students to the part of the world where writing first developed- the area once called Mesopotamia, which was located in what is today the country of Iraq.
Students have probably already studied in their classes about the shift of human societies from the nomadic pursuit of game and wild vegetation, to settled cultivation, and eventually towards settled villages, towns, and cities.
Each group should work together to provide any additional information about the development that was in the event summary.
Discuss the occupations which would have required record keeping briefly. Then, each group will present its hypotheses about what the object can tell us today about life in ancient Mesopotamia. Suddenly ordinary traders could learn to read and write, not just specialists! In transliteration, a different rendition of the same glyph is chosen depending on its role in the present context.
What are its weaknesses? You may wish to discuss the role of the priestly class in ancient Mesopotamia, as elite, Mesopotamian priests had a far more expanded role in society than students may have experienced with members of the clergy today.
The primary challenge was posed by the characteristic use of old Sumerian non-phonetic logograms in other languages that had different pronunciations for the same symbols.