Cuneiform is one of the oldest known systems of writing. It was used from approximately the 34th century BC to the 2nd century AD. Scribes typically pressed the cuneiform symbols onto small clay tablets and many of these tablets are held in museum collections today. Now, thanks to 3D printing technology, two professors at Cornell University have been able to reproduce several cuneiform tablets that look and feel a lot like the original artifacts.

This project was a collaborative effort between Professors Hod Lipson and David I. Owen of Cornell University. The pair used a Next Engine desktop 3D scanner to capture the details of the tablets and then processed the scans in ScanStudio HD. The resulting files were printed on a 3D Systems ZCorp powder-based 3D printer.

The end result did lose a little bit in the translation; the 3D printed tablets do not display some of the precise lines of the cuneiform and in some areas the color is a little off. Still, Lipson and Owen definitely plan to continue the project.

"We plan to continue this work in two directions," the pair stated on their website. "First, we plan to systematically scan and post additional reproduction of rare cuneiforms. Second, we will explore additional methods for scanning and manufacturing cuneiforms at higher resolutions appropriate for reproducing the fine details on the smaller tablets."

Lipson and Owen did not release a translation of the cuneiform that appears on the tablets. They have however, gone public with the 3D cuneiform scans. Their VMRL and STL files are available for download here.