How Was Paper Used in Ancient Times?

Paper is an indispensable part of our lives. We use it for writing, drawing, printing, and even packaging.

But have you ever wondered how paper was used in ancient times? Let’s take a journey back in time and explore the history of paper.

Origins of Paper

Paper was invented in ancient China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). The first paper was made from mulberry bark, hemp rags, and old fishnets.

The process involved pounding the raw materials into pulp, which was then spread out on a flat surface to dry. This method of papermaking remained unchanged for centuries until it spread to other parts of the world.

Paper in Ancient Times

As papermaking techniques improved, it became more widely available and affordable. In ancient times, paper was used for various purposes such as:

  • Writing: Paper replaced other materials like bamboo and silk as a more convenient medium for writing.
  • Art: Artists used paper to create paintings and calligraphy artworks.
  • Money: The Chinese government began using paper money during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).
  • Books: The invention of printing made it possible to mass-produce books which were previously handwritten on scrolls or tablets.

Paper Spreads Across the World

The Arabs learned about papermaking from Chinese prisoners captured during a battle in 751 CE. They then improved upon the technique by using linen rags instead of mulberry bark. Papermaking then spread to Spain during the Islamic rule in the region.

In Europe, papermaking began in Spain around the 11th century and later spread to Italy where it became widespread during the Renaissance period. Before this time, parchment made from animal skins was used for writing and bookmaking. Paper became a cheaper alternative to parchment and thus became widely used.


The invention of paper revolutionized the way we communicate and record information. From its humble beginnings in ancient China to its global use today, paper has come a long way.

It has been used for everything from writing and art to money and books. And as we continue to develop new technologies, paper will always remain an important part of our lives.