What Was Parchment Made From in Ancient Times?

Parchment is a writing material that has been used for centuries by people all over the world. The early forms of parchment were made from animal skins, primarily sheep and goats. In ancient times, parchment was considered the most premium writing material, and it was used for many important documents such as religious texts, legal documents, and personal letters.

The Origins of Parchment
The history of parchment dates back to the early days of human civilization when people needed a durable and reliable writing material. The earliest known form of parchment was developed by the ancient Egyptians around 5000 years ago.

They created a type of paper called papyrus by cutting strips from the stalks of the papyrus plant and then laying them side-by-side. However, papyrus was not suitable for long-term use since it was susceptible to water damage.

The Advantages of Parchment
Parchment was an excellent alternative to papyrus because it was much more durable and could withstand damage from water, fire, and insects. Additionally, parchment could be folded or rolled up without cracking or breaking like other materials such as clay tablets or stone slabs.

How Was Parchment Made?
To create parchment, animal skins were first cleaned and trimmed to remove any hair or fat. The skin was then soaked in water for several days until it became soft enough to scrape off the outer layer with a curved blade. This process was repeated several times until only the inner layer remained.

Afterward, the skin was stretched out on a frame and dried under tension. This process helped to make the skin thinner and more translucent. Once fully dried, the skin would be smoothed out with pumice stone or a scraper tool until it had a smooth surface that could be written on.

  • Sheepskin Parchment
  • Sheepskin parchment is considered one of the most common types of parchment. This is because sheep were widely available and provided a relatively large amount of skin per animal. Sheepskin parchment was commonly used for writing religious texts, legal documents, and personal letters.

  • Goatskin Parchment
  • Goatskin parchment was also popular in ancient times. It was considered more durable than sheepskin parchment and had a distinct texture that made it ideal for artwork and illuminations. Goatskin parchment was often used for creating books, scrolls, and maps.

  • Calfskin Parchment
  • Calfskin parchment was considered the highest quality parchment due to its fine texture and smooth surface. It was often used for creating luxury books, personal letters, and important legal documents.


In conclusion, parchment is a writing material that has stood the test of time. It has been used for centuries by people all over the world to create important documents that have shaped history.

The use of animal skins to create parchment may seem unusual today, but it was an essential part of early human civilization’s development. The durability and beauty of this material continue to be appreciated by artists, writers, and historians alike.