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FYI: The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

For thousands of years, letters have been the way to communicate messages to near and far. Letters were bundled together with elastic bands, and stored in drawers and under mattresses, to be taken out, reread, and cherished — a documentation of each family’s personal history.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The First Letters

Writing and sending letters used to be a good deal more complicated than it is today, when we can scribble a note, stuff it in an envelope and into the mailbox in a matter of minutes. The very earliest letters were written before there was either ink or paper, using clay tablets. Made of clean, smooth clay and in various shapes — cone-shaped, drum-shaped, or flat — wedge-shaped letters were cut out of them and then the tablets were dried in a kiln or in the sun. This made the tablets extremely strong — so strong that many have survived until today. In fact, archaeologists have uncovered thousands of clay tablets in what used to be ancient Babylonia. There are so many that half a million still haven’t been read! Clay tablets were used for all kinds of letters — business communications, royal messages, and regular personal letters — just like today, really.

 

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