Code of Hammurabi {Mesopotamia Homeschool Unit Study}

Hammurabi Homeschool Lesson

The Code of Hammurabi is fascinating on so many levels. Firstly, it is the longest and most complete set of legal rules known to man. This gives us an insight into the life and times of the ancient Babylonians, but also into the mind of their creator. Secondly, its similarity to some of the ancient laws of Moses leads some scholars to ponder its influence on those laws. For example, the ‘eye for an eye’ principle. And lastly, the rules lead to more questions than they answer.

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Ideas to Teach about Hammurabi

We spent a whole week learning about the Code of Hammurabi and the king who constructed them. I am so pleased I have kept a record over the years of all our fun together. Reading back on this (now updated) post, I had a huge smile on my face. Gosh, I can’t begin to express how blessed I feel to have had all these years with my children.

Do check out my MEGA Mesopotamia Unit Study post to find out just where the Natufian people fit into the history of Mesopotamia. This huge post has lots of printable, videos, science experiments and, as always, stacks of suggestions for easy hands on activities you can do with your children! I am always adding new stuff to this post so do go and check it out.

The Goals For The Week

Whilst we covered Assyria and Babylonia in some depth, it was Hammurabi who caught our imagination. The goal was to spend an entire week learning about Hammurabi and the Code of Hammurabi.

The first duty of government is to protect the powerless from the powerful.―To bring about the rule of righteousness in the land so that the strong shall not harm the weak.”

Code of Hammurabi 1772 B.C.

I planned what I thought would be quite a heavy weeks worth of work.  The children, as always, surprised me with their enthusiasm as they threw themselves into all the activities.  I have included my planning notes below – just click on them if you want to see a close up 😊

Supplies for the Week

Most of the supplies for this week were printed note pages, black bags for making Mesopotamia dress up and shoe boxes to create their own stele, just like the one the code of Hammurabi was written on (well, maybe not that similar!). We did use the following two books:

Hammurabi Biography

The children read the first book, The Wise King Hammurabi, as well as the lesson from ‘The Mystery of History’ text about Hammurabi and then created some biographical note pages about him:

Code of Hammurabi

We also read the play relating to Hammurabi each day from 25 Exciting Plays for Ancient History Classes. It was SO useful in helping the children fully understand the difference between primary and secondary evidence and therefore the importance of each.  It brought forth many great discussions.  So worth it! It also helped the children learn a bit more about Hammurabi the man and also the Code of Hammurabi as an historical document.

I also reinforced the idea of primary and secondary evidence using the following sheets (I’m sorry, I’m not sure where I got these from):

Primary Evidence

The Code of Hammurabi

We photocopied the whole stele worth of laws, including the prologue and the epilogue.  The children read through them as time allowed, keeping an eye out for the one they wanted to concentrate their piece of writing on.  We got them from this site.


Applying the Code of Hammurabi

Our next activity was obtained from this site.  It was a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant (have I said that enough?) activity.  The children so enjoyed it and I really loved listening to them (I was out of the room, and just let them get on with it, but overheard it from the room next door).  Just brilliant!  (There, I said it again!!):

Hammurabi's Code of Laws

When we came to study this a few years later with the younger girls, they completed a different activity which was just as educational. We used a primary source document about Hammurabi’s laws, reading a selection of them, and then using them to judge specific situations. I had the girls make up some of their own rules and jot them down on this sheet:

Making a Code of Hammurabi (or Perhaps of Charlotte or Thomas or Lillie…)

Then they had enormous fun making up their own rules and stele by painting a couple of shoe boxes with black paint and writing their own rules with the punishments with Tipex. I really enjoyed their take on this and had to giggle at rules such as having particular limbs cut off for slapping, not controlling their tongue and for getting out of bed before 7am! I laughed at Thomas’ which consisted of people having their food taken away (a fate worse than death for my always hungry son!)- click on the pictures below to see the larger versions:

Using Cuneiform on Clay to Write a Law

Back in Hammurabi’s time, any writing was done on slabs of clay. I thought it would be fun for the younger girls to write one of their own rules onto a slab of clay in cuneiform.

We rolled out the clay with a rolling pin, I supplied them with the cuneiform alphabet and the girls used various utensils to mark out their chosen rule:

Writing an Editorial to a Newspaper

As one of their final activities I had them write a editorial letter to the Babylonian Times.  I bought a collection of local papers so they could specifically see how letters to the editor are written.  After choosing a law they felt strongly about – either agreeing or disagreeing- they wrote a letter to the editor of the aforementioned ‘paper’ (or would that be tablet?).  Here are their letters (Again, click on them to enlarge):

I love teaching my children!

Making Babylonian Dress Up

Lastly, they were to design their own Babylonian dress up out of black bags and black tape.  Yup, that’s all!! Oh. My. Goodness.😍

I think they did a great job

Much was achieved, loads was learnt and discussed and most importantly a lot of fun was had!

Read More: Dressing Up for History Unit Studies – a look at why dressing up should be a vital part of any history unit study to encourage next level imagination, excellent communication skills and developing empathy for those living in different times and places

Hammurabi: Make dolls clothes from black bags

This was a fun, not very educational activity I stole from the above older children’s study. But we only had one black bag. So the littles had to make do with dressing their dolls in black bags. Regardless, it had absolutely no educational benefit, but was bags of fun (ha!! Bags… Geddit?!):

Related: The Benefits of Using Dressing Up in Your History Unit Studies

Free Hammurabi Notepages

I’ve created some free printable notepages to go along with this lesson. They include some pages with a quote, three of the laws, as well as some pages to do written narration on and a couple of pages to add some photos or drawings to. I hope they are useful!

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Ideas to Teach about Hammurabi

Further Reading

I have covered history twice, once with my older ones, and now with my younger two. You can find all my history posts from the links below:

All Mystery of History Posts

All History Posts

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