From an authentic Sumerian royal inscription:
Discover the Sumerian language with your class, the first one ever written in the world.
Find out about cuneiform writing in use during three millennia all over Middle East.
A code to decipher!

Reading cuneiform is like cracking a code for children! Only few people in the world can read cuneiform, even fewer can understand Sumerian.
Even though this session takes children a bit out of their comfort zone, they love it and feel privileged.

In one afternoon, children learn the main principles of cuneiform writing (mixing of signs for words and sounds) and acquire a basic knowledge of Sumerian, a language unrelated to any other language families, where they put “everything upside down”!

Deciphering the code

✓ Full afternoon or morning session

✓ KS2 levels: Year 4 to 6 (material is adapted to different year-levels)possible for KS3 (Year 7-8);
(For Year 3: see our session about Writing)

✓ Cross-curricular activity in relation with languages, linguistics and grammar.

✓ Problem centered activity.

✓ Price: £75 in-person; also available online for £50

✓ Included: documents for each child (4 pages Pdf to print out)

✓ Material needed: a set of colour pencils (red-blue-green-orange-purple)

✓ Atelier disponible en français:
idéal pour le niveau 6e

This session exemplifies the flexibility of mind essential to the learning of any new language.

It opens the mind of the children to a fundamentally different culture and foster their curiosity to understand the world and the past: how and why writing systems and languages appear, change with time, and (could) disappear.

Children are learning while deciphering an authentic inscription of the king Gudea of Lagaš, who ruled at the end of the Third millennium BC (original in the Louvre Museum)

They are guided step-by-step through the reading of the inscription;
Use of different colours to better visualise the elements of the writing and the language.

✓ What is the content of Gudea’s message?! Understanding the text show the children how we use textual sources to make history: what does it tell us about Sumerian kings and cities?

Reading Gudea


Marie displays a tablet (moulding) dating from the first half of the second millennium BC to show the children what our textual sources look like.

Year 6+ (optional – depends on time left): “Talking Sumerian”! A simple and funny animation introduces the children to the basic principles the Sumerian language (agglutinative one).

Tablet display 2

A full afternoon or morning session:

Introduction: birth of writing in context, when, how and why.

✓ Reading the inscription of Gudea

✓ How to interpret textual sources: understanding the content of the message of Gudea;

Evolution of writing after Gudea – display of the tablet

Optional Year 6+ (depends on time left): “Talking Sumerians!” a bit more about Sumerian grammar

Optional Year 4-5 (depends on time left): Who is Gudea? Short introduction to typical features of Sumerian Art.

At the end of the session, all children get their “Beginner Certificate in Sumerian language”!

Beginners Certificate

Are you interested by the session "Reading cuneiform!" for your children or your cla

Get in touch with Marie for a chat about the session: [email protected].