What Was Used to Make Paper in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, people used a variety of materials to make paper. The earliest known paper was made from plant fibers and dates back to ancient Egypt around 5000 years ago. Since then, many different materials have been used to create paper, including animal skins, papyrus, bark, and even old clothes.

Plant Fibers

One of the most common materials used to make paper in ancient times was plant fibers. These fibers were obtained from a variety of sources, including bamboo, rice straw, and hemp.

To make paper from plant fibers, the fibers would first be collected and then soaked in water until they became soft and pliable. The softened fibers would then be beaten with a mallet or other tool to break them down into fine pulp. This pulp could then be spread out on a flat surface and left to dry in the sun or in an oven.


Another material commonly used for making paper in ancient times was papyrus. Papyrus is a type of reed that grows along the Nile River in Egypt.

To make papyrus paper, the reeds would be cut into thin strips and soaked in water until they became pliable. The strips would then be layered over each other at right angles and pressed together until they formed a sheet of paper.


Bark was another material that was used to make paper in some cultures. Bark from trees such as mulberry or fig could be stripped off and boiled until it became soft enough to be beaten into a pulp. This pulp could then be spread out on a surface and left to dry.

Animal Skins

Animal skins were also used to create parchment or vellum which is a type of high-quality writing surface made from animal hides such as sheepskin or calfskin. To create parchment or vellum, the skin would be soaked in lime to remove the hair and flesh before being stretched and dried. This process made the skin thinner, smoother, and more durable, creating a surface that was perfect for writing.


In conclusion, paper has been an essential part of human history for thousands of years. From plant fibers to animal skins, ancient people used a variety of materials to create paper for writing and other uses. Today, we have access to an even wider range of materials and methods to create paper, but it’s important to remember the ingenuity of our ancestors who first discovered how to turn raw materials into something as useful as paper.