What Was Paper Used for in Ancient Times?

Paper, a ubiquitous material in our modern world, has been utilized for centuries. It is easy to take paper for granted, but have you ever wondered what it was used for in ancient times? In this article, we’ll explore the various uses of paper in ancient times and how it has evolved into the versatile material we know today.

What is Paper?

Before we dive into the various uses of paper in ancient times, let’s first understand what paper is. Paper is a thin material made from fibers that are extracted from plants or other materials. These fibers are then processed and pressed into thin sheets that can be written on or printed on.

Origins of Paper

The origins of paper can be traced back to ancient China during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). The Chinese invented paper by pulping mulberry bark and other plant materials.

They then added water to the pulp and spread it out thinly on flat surfaces to dry. This process resulted in a thin sheet of paper that was perfect for writing or drawing.

Uses of Paper in Ancient Times

Once paper was invented, it quickly became a popular material for various purposes. Here are some examples of how paper was used in ancient times:

1. Writing Materials

One of the primary uses of paper was as a writing material. Before paper was invented, people wrote on various materials such as bamboo strips, silk cloth, or animal hides.

However, these materials were expensive and not very accessible to everyone. Paper provided an affordable alternative that allowed more people to read and write.

2. Artwork

Paper was also used for creating artwork such as paintings and calligraphy. The thin sheets made it easy to draw intricate designs and characters with precision.

3. Money

During the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 CE), paper money was invented in China. This was a significant development as it replaced the use of metal coins, which were heavy and cumbersome to carry around. Paper money quickly spread throughout the world and is still widely used today.

4. Packaging Material

In ancient times, paper was also used for packaging materials. It was an excellent material for wrapping delicate objects such as porcelain and glassware.


As you can see, paper has been utilized for various purposes throughout history. From writing materials to artwork to even money, paper has been an essential material that has revolutionized society. Its versatility has allowed it to adapt and evolve over time, making it one of the most prevalent materials in our modern world today.