Courtesy of the Schøyen Collection

An ‘A’ for effort. This 19th-century B.C. cuneiform tablet from Babylonia looks as if it could be a record of a conquest, a royal decree or a mythological epic—but it is actually a lesson tablet inscribed by a pupil in a scribal training center. It reads: “Graduate of the Scribal Academy, where did you go in olden days? I went to school. What did you do in school? I read my tablet, and copied my tablet. They prepared for me my prepared lines. Let me tell you what my teacher told me. Even a fool could easily follow his instructions. Tablets of Sumerian and Akkadian, tablets of the scribal art. I am a scribe and know how to inscribe a stela.” The colophon credits the goddess of writing, Nisaba, and notes that “Suen-Uselli received it on the 22nd day of Month 11.” (There is no indication what grade the ancient scribe-to-be received for this assignment.)