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Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Ancient Babylon

Quentin's (age 9) map
The Babylonians were a Semitic people who invaded Mesopotamia defeating the Sumerians and by about 1900 BC establishing their capital at Babylon. 

Hammurabi, of the famous law code, established the Babylonian Empire. This Mesopotamian empire declined at the start of the 16th century when Hittites came into power, but managed to survive until Babylonia fell to the Assyrians in the 8th century. We read a few of them and we followed Angelicscaliwag's suggestion of using Philip Martin's You Be the Judge of Hammurabi's Code. They also played "The Hammurabi Game" which is not really anything to do with Hammurabi, but is more the precursor of strategy and resource allocation games such as Civilization. The game of Hammurabi lasts 10 years, and each year you determine how to allocate your scarce bushels of grain: buying and selling acres of land, feeding your population, and planting seeds for next year's crops. Along the way, you'll deal with famine, plagues, fluctuating crop yields and varying prices for land.

 The Babylonians used cuneiform writing, which was an adaption of the cuneiform from Sumer.
The name cuneiform itself simply means "wedge shaped" (from the Latin cuneus "wedge" and forma "shape") because of its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. I made a stylus from whittling down one side of a chopstick end (the handle end). After I did this, I found a post on Writing Cuneiform that tells how to make a stylus from a chopstick by sandpapering it down. 
 Either way, once you have your stylus, you can make the triangular wedges with the end you have shaped, and the lines with the other end of the chopstick (the end that normally touches the food.) Writing Cuneiform suggests that you keep your clay pretty thick, almost like a smoothed stone, but I hadn't found that blog when we did ours and we flattened it pretty thinly. We did find that sometimes the stylus went all the way through the clay when it was this thin. We went to the Write Like a Babylonian site and typed in their initials to give them something to write.
 I wanted them to have something to put in their notebooks, too, so we made some on paper with paint. I wanted to use either black or white paint, but red was all we could find this day, so we went with it.


Sumer: Stories with Puppets and Base 6 math with Sumerian Counters
The Sumerian and Akkadian civilizations used a base 60 mathematical system, rather than the base 10 system we are used to, but the system used ten as a sub-basein the sense that it did not use 60 distinct symbols for its digits. They divided the day into 24 hours, each hour into 60 minutes, each minute into 60 seconds. This was inherited by the Babylonians, who added a positional system to the base 60 in which the value of a particular digit depends both on the digit itself and its position within the numberBecause there was no symbol for zero in Sumerian or early Babylonian numbering systems, it is not always immediately obvious how a number should be interpreted, and its true value must sometimes have been determined by its context. The base 60 system is also used in measuring angles, there are 360 in a circle. There are 60 minutes of arc in a degree, and 60 arcseconds in a minute. Notice that we are using the terms minutes and seconds in both time and geometry.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the chopstick idea!

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  2. This is fun. We read a book about Sumer from You Wouldn't Want to Be... series - Quentin might enjoy them too!

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  3. Now I want to find this Hammurabi game........

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