Writing Systems in the Ancient World

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What materials did scribes use?  

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The materials scribes used varied with period and region. Some of the major materials used were:

China: The earliest known Chinese writing unearthed by archaeologists were "oracles bones", in which tortoise shells and cow bones were inscribed with ink. later Chinese scribes used paper, which was first manufactured in China during the Han dynasty. They wrote mainly using brushes and pens.

Mesopotamia: Scribes in ancient Mesopotamia used a reed stylus to inscribe writing on wet clay tablets. Both the languages of Sumer and Akkad were written in the form of a syllabary known as cuneiform.

Egypt and the Mediterranean: Scribes in Egypt and most of the Mediterranean preferred to use a type of paper made from papyrus, a plant that grows in the Nile delta, and quill or reed pens dipped in ink. For short, informal communication, scribes wrote with ink on ostraca, small pieces of discarded broken pottery. 

Europe: Outside of Egypt, when papyrus was not available, parchment or vellum made from animal skins was used for writing with pens made from reeds or quills (bird feathers). 


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