Last month when we did our Ancient Writing in Hieroglyphs and Cuneiform activity, I made sure we made some extras specifically for this experiment.

Ancient Sumerians and Egyptians did their writing on stone or clay tablets, and the Egyptians also used papyrus. To this day, we are able to read the stone/clay tablets, but not much papyrus writing has survived. When asked what she thought would last longer – clay tablet or papyrus, Satori gave the common sense answer, but it was fun to do this experiment anyway.

We used Daddy’s hieroglyph papyrus roll and his cuneiform tablet. By the way, he didn’t do the cuneiform wedges right, I just noticed. It looks like he scraped them in, where he was supposed to just stick in his wedged stick. All the more reason to put them through methods of destruction to see if they will survive!

First, the pieces were submerged in a Nile flood for five minutes.

They both survived, but the ink on our paper was getting smeary.

Our clay tablet was starting to dissolve, as we did not put it in a fire kiln or bake in the sun to make it totally waterproof, luckily we could still read it though.


Next test was to have them back in the hot Egyptian sun for thousands of years. (Oven for half an hour.)

As we took them out, the clay tablet was unchanged, but our paper scroll had crumbled in places and is now barely readable.

Want to see some actual ancient writings that can still be read today? The oldest tablets go back to 3000 BCE. Here’s a Babylonian tablet from 87 BCE that described the arrival of Halley’s comet:

This one was found from the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh and tells the story of the Babylonian flood and the ark Utnapishti built, very similar to the biblical Noah.

On the other hand, here is a sample of papyrus.