My thanks to my brother-in-law, Steve, for pointing these out to me.
You're probably familiar with cuneiform tablets like these:
I recently read that most of these tablets are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (funny, I always imagined them as larger). Steve told me that some cuneiform had envelopes! My first thought was... how? Well, the same way you made the tablets - with clay.
Clay tablets were usually sun dried, but not fired in a kiln. Sun-dried clay is hard, but breaks easily. So a hard tablet could be wrapped in clay, inscribed with information, allowed to harden and sent. The recipient could be sure that the internal tablet had not been read by anyone along the way.
Considering the ephemeral nature of these envelopes, how did ANY of them survive?? This next envelope (unopened?) is shaped like a hand:
Before people figured out cuneiform, they used tokens as a means of accounting:
And if you wanted to send these, you used another type of clay envelope:
So...before we had disposable paper and envelopes, people had reusable wax tablets and recyclable clay envelopes (until clay is kiln-fired, it can be wet and reused). And now we've nearly stopped using paper mail, and send information electronically. Will any of this information survive?
Hope you enjoyed the outtakes. Back on Monday with the Climate Data Tablet.