Ancient Sumeria Activity for Kids
The perfect Ancient Sumeria activity for kids focuses on the first forms of writing. We first discussed cuneiform. It’s the obvious lesson for a little study on Sumer. But I decided not to limit the lesson to just cuneiform and discussed ancient writing in general; types of writing in the ancient world and some of the possible uses and it’s development. My lesson included looking at hieroglyphs as well as looking at ancient cylinder seals and other types of stamps used for marking property or keeping record of trade, etc. We also talked a bit about our names and about signatures.
Read a Great Book for Ancient Writing
You’ll be hard pressed to find a book about cuneiform (but I’d love to hear about it if you have!) Resource books are wonderful, but I specifically wanted a living story to read with my co-op class and here’s what I found…
You might think cuneiform and other Ancient writing would be a difficult lesson for kids to get into. And perhaps it would be if you don’t make it approachable. That’s why it was fun to tie in a very cute little book called The Mystery of King Karfu from the Casebook of Seymour Sleuth. It gave me a chance to talk a bit about the mystery genre and then we had fun solving the code. I used the code to tie in the idea of writing with symbols as opposed to letters. The children also added their names in hieroglyphs to the little journals we made with the “cave paintings” from our Prehistoric lesson. My son also loved working with his hieroglyph book and stampers at home.
Next we looked at different cylinder seals from an art perspective and also how they were used in the Ancient world. The following links were great for looking at ancient seals from Sumeria as well as other areas of the Ancient World and learning a bit of the history behind them:
Most ancient seals are actually carved so that the print left is raised as in the example above. But I needed to simplify for at least 15 children to do this project with my co-op class, so I decided to use Pringles cans as our cylinders and then just have the kids add their raised designs. This way the kids still get the idea from the experience and it is simplified the project making it easy for them to accomplish. The result is an imprint into the clay as opposed to a raised design.
Materials Needed to Make Your Own Cylinder Seal:
- Pringles jar or other cylinder shaped recycleable
- Foam sticker and letters for design
- Rolling pin
- Self drying clay. I used AMACO Air Dry Modeling Clay in Terra Cotta
Noteworthy No Mess Option…
With a large group or family with multiple children you may want to invest in a canvas drop cloth found at any home improvement store to work the clay on. Not only is it the perfect surface to roll the clay out on but makes the clean up so easy. After class I rolled up the cloth and, once dry, shook it outside to remove loose pieces. After that, I just threw it in the washing machine.
Make Your Own Cylinder Seal Tutorial
1. Begin with a recycled Pringles can or another cylinder shaped object and prime it with any color paint. ( Flat paint will work best and be less likely to peel on various surfaces). Once dry add foam stickers and create your own design. If you choose to make names from foam letters buy the kind that do not stick. You must use a glue gun and place them inverted or backward so that when rolled into clay the name will appear correctly.
2. Once ready with your design get air bubbles out of your clay by kneading it like dough. Then roll out the clay. Avoid rolling the clay too thin. If it’s too thin it will crack when dry. Go for no less than 1/4″ thick but preferably 1/3″ thick.
3. Once you get a good imprint of your design, add extra designs around as desired.
Cylinder Seal Student Gallery
If you seek to make a raised design you can carve a clay cylinder or a candle may work well and be less likely to break. Another possibility is to simply allow your child to have fun creating “Ancient writing” in a free style manor as below.
Art Around the Ancient World- the line up:
The following lists each lesson by civilization, what each lesson’s focus will be, and the media/project tutorial. (These are subject to change.)
- Prehistory– Cave Paintings- Painting the Ancient Way
- Sumerians – Ancient Writing -Cylinder Seals in Clay
- Egyptians – Egyptian Art and Hieroglyphs- Multi Media/ Egyptian Headdress
- Assyrians and Babylonians –Near East Metalworking – Babylonian Art Lesson for Kids
- Phoenicians– Ancient Dyes- Purple Batik Cloths
- Hittites and Ancient Israel– TBA
- Ancient Africa–Akuaba Wooden Doll- Scratch Art
- Minoan and Mycenaean– Early Greek Masks-Paper Mache Masks
- Persians– Persian Carpets and Decor- Paper Weaving
- Ancient China- Tangrams– Tessellating Birds
- Greece- Etruscan Vases- TBA
- Rome- Mosaics- TBA
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