What Did They Write On Before There Was Paper?

As Michael Scott says, we have limitless paper in a paperless world. But this wasn’t always the case. We have studied in middle school the invention of paper, one way or two that people kept records when paper wasn’t there and some cumbersome details that we don’t remember anymore. 

Rediscover history with us and relearn about Ancient Writing Materials.the 5 things they wrote on before there was paper. It’ll be over before it gets boring, we promise!


Ancient Writing Materials: What Did They Write On Before There Was Paper?
Wiki,media Commons/Unknown author

This is probably the only thing we remember about the times before paper. Papyrus was dried and then bound as leaves of a book using leather! The oldest discovered papyrus scrolls date back to 2500 BC. That’s around four thousand and five hundred years ago. The word “paper” has actually been derived from papyrus, too! There is also an interesting theory that writing was curved back then because straight strokes would just tear and break the papyrus. And it was really expensive, too. As a matter of fact, people would wash papyrus and dry it after their work was done(and memorised, we’re guessing) to avoid buying a new one.

Clay tablets

Ancient Writing Materials: What Did They Write On Before There Was Paper?
Wikimedia Commons/Gary Todd

Cuneiform, one of the earliest writing systems, is often found on clay tablets. But how was writing on clay tablets achieved? Simple. Write on clay while its soft or wet and let it bake in the sun outside. Our first libraries are known to have some beautiful clay tablet archives. This is where they did their accounting and finance stuff, or just engraved(and sometimes, wrote down) the things they wanted to keep.


Ancient Writing Materials: What Did They Write On Before There Was Paper?
Wikimedia Commons/Gary Todd

Bamboo ‘strips’ or ‘stalks’ were used to write on as early as 500BC! Now comes an interesting fact that you’d like to know(as did we). 

How do you erase stuff from a bamboo stick? Well, people back then used a small knife to erase and scrape away mistakes. This is exactly how the knife became a symbol of political stature. Because it symbolised the owner having the power to change something.  Yes, exactly that.

Stones on stones and Stones on walls

Ancient Writing Materials: What Did They Write On Before There Was Paper?

If you’ve ever seen a movie or TV show with ancient characters(and really old vampires), you probably know how symbols were carved on walls using stones. Archeological excavations have discovered these ‘writings’ on walls of caves, indicating that humans had the urge to write long, long before paper or anything like it came to be.

People would also often write on larger, softer stones using smaller, harsher ones.

Birch bark

Ancient Writing Materials: What Did They Write On Before There Was Paper?
Wikimedia commons?
Unknown author

Birch bark writing was used in Asia, especially in the countries now known as India, China, Afghanistan and Tibet, before the advent of paper. People would write on the inner layer of birch bark, making it a very commonplace thing for school exercises, personal letters and business documents. Many birch bark manuscripts that have been found are believed to be more than two thousand years old! The most famous birch back manuscripts include  Sanskrit and Brahmi manuscripx and Gandharan Buddhist manuscripts.

Which of these ways would you like to try out? Tell us in the comments below!

If you liked this, you need to check out These Are The 5 Oldest Languages In The World!

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