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10 Ways
People
Kept
Records
Before
Paper
By Renee Floyd
Today, we live in a
digital, “paperless”
world. We can fit
thousands of pages
of information on a
pocket-size flash
drive.
But how did we record information
before paper?

Caxton Showing the First Specimen of His Printing to King Edward IV at th...
Here are 10 ways we kept records before
paper and mass printing became
available.
1. Bamboo
• Chinese scholars wrote
on bamboo stalks as
long ago as 500 BCE.
• The scholars used small
knives to scrape away
mistakes...
2. Birch Bark
• Birch bark manuscripts have been found in
India, Russia and the Middle East.
• Birch bark was used in medieval Russia fo...
3. Bones & Shells
• Ancient Chinese
oracles used shell &
bone fragments to
predict future events.
• Oracles carved
questions onto the
bone o...
These “oracle bones” date back to
1400 BCE & represent the earliest
records of Chinese writing.
4. Clay Tablets
• Cuneiform, one of the earliest writing systems,
is often found on clay tablets.
• The first libraries
consisted of clay
...
5. Ostraca
• Ostraca, or broken
pieces of pottery, are
considered the
“scrap paper” of
ancient civilizations.
• Ancient Athenians
use...
6. Palm Leaves
• Palm leaves were used in Southeast Asia as
early as 1500 BCE.
• Scholars theorize that Southeast Asian scripts
contain m...
7. Papyrus
• The oldest discovered
papyrus scrolls date back
to 2500 BCE.
• The word “paper”
derives from the word
“papyrus.”
Papyrus was expensive to produce and became a
monopolized resource in the city of Alexandria.
It was often washed and reus...
8. Parchment
• Parchment is made
from goat, sheep or
cow skin.
• Its use as a writing
medium was
perfected in
Pergamon (modern
day Turk...
9. Silk
• Some of the earliest
known manuscripts of I
Ching and Tao de Ching
exist on 2,000 year old
silk.
• Silk manuscripts were...
10. Wax Tablets
• Wax tablets were made of wood panels
covered in soft wax.
• Entire tablets
could be erased
by melting the
layer of wax,
...
Thanks for viewing!
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Records
Management to learn about the future of
records in a paperless...
Image Sources
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•

Slide 1: © User: Pottery Fan / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Slide 2: retronaut.com
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10 Ways People Kept Records Before Paper

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Today, we live in a digital, "paperless" world. But what about the days before paper?

Here are 10 ways people kept records before paper and mass printing became available.

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  • Wikipedia image
  • Retronaut image
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Attribution for image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:George-peabody-library.jpg
  • Bamboo forest image attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jardin_botannique_bayonne_bambous.JPG
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  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Attribution page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orakelknochen.JPG
  • Image attribution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shang_dynasty_inscribed_scapula.jpg
  • Attribution page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oracle_bones_pit.JPG
  • My own photo
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Attribution page: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:41_-_Sto%C3%A0_of_Attalus_Museum_-_Ostracism_against_Megakles_(487_BC)_-_Photo_by_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto,_Nov_9_2009.jpg
  • Attribution page: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1-3_-_Sto%C3%A0_of_Attalus_Museum_-_Ostraka_against_Perikles,_Kimon,_Aristeides_-_Photo_by_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto,_Nov_9_2009.jpg
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  • Attribution page: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Palm-leaf_manuscript.jpg
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Attribution page: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egypt.Papyrus.01.jpg
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Wikimedia image (public domain, no attribution needed)
  • Landing page link: http://ecm.laserfiche.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-records-management/
  • Transcript of "10 Ways People Kept Records Before Paper"

    1. 1. 10 Ways People Kept Records Before Paper By Renee Floyd
    2. 2. Today, we live in a digital, “paperless” world. We can fit thousands of pages of information on a pocket-size flash drive.
    3. 3. But how did we record information before paper? Caxton Showing the First Specimen of His Printing to King Edward IV at the Almonry, Westminster, 1851.
    4. 4. Here are 10 ways we kept records before paper and mass printing became available.
    5. 5. 1. Bamboo
    6. 6. • Chinese scholars wrote on bamboo stalks as long ago as 500 BCE. • The scholars used small knives to scrape away mistakes. These knives became a symbol of political stature, as the owners had the power to change records.
    7. 7. 2. Birch Bark
    8. 8. • Birch bark manuscripts have been found in India, Russia and the Middle East. • Birch bark was used in medieval Russia for school exercises, personal letters and business ledgers.
    9. 9. 3. Bones & Shells
    10. 10. • Ancient Chinese oracles used shell & bone fragments to predict future events. • Oracles carved questions onto the bone or shell, then applied heat until it cracked. They interpreted the crack patterns as answers from deities.
    11. 11. These “oracle bones” date back to 1400 BCE & represent the earliest records of Chinese writing.
    12. 12. 4. Clay Tablets
    13. 13. • Cuneiform, one of the earliest writing systems, is often found on clay tablets. • The first libraries consisted of clay tablet archives. • Ancient Mediterranean civilizations used clay tablets for sophisticated accounting systems.
    14. 14. 5. Ostraca
    15. 15. • Ostraca, or broken pieces of pottery, are considered the “scrap paper” of ancient civilizations. • Ancient Athenians used ostraca to cast votes when the government wanted to banish a citizen. This gave rise to the term “ostracize” which means to exile or banish.
    16. 16. 6. Palm Leaves
    17. 17. • Palm leaves were used in Southeast Asia as early as 1500 BCE. • Scholars theorize that Southeast Asian scripts contain mostly rounded shapes because angular letters split and broke the palm leaves.
    18. 18. 7. Papyrus
    19. 19. • The oldest discovered papyrus scrolls date back to 2500 BCE. • The word “paper” derives from the word “papyrus.”
    20. 20. Papyrus was expensive to produce and became a monopolized resource in the city of Alexandria. It was often washed and reused to save money.
    21. 21. 8. Parchment
    22. 22. • Parchment is made from goat, sheep or cow skin. • Its use as a writing medium was perfected in Pergamon (modern day Turkey) as a cheaper alternative to Egyptian papyrus.
    23. 23. 9. Silk
    24. 24. • Some of the earliest known manuscripts of I Ching and Tao de Ching exist on 2,000 year old silk. • Silk manuscripts were used for philosophical, mathematical and military records in China.
    25. 25. 10. Wax Tablets
    26. 26. • Wax tablets were made of wood panels covered in soft wax. • Entire tablets could be erased by melting the layer of wax, giving rise to the Latin expression “tabula rasa” or “clean slate.”
    27. 27. Thanks for viewing! Check out the Ultimate Guide to Records Management to learn about the future of records in a paperless world.
    28. 28. Image Sources • • • • • • • • • • Slide 1: © User: Pottery Fan / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 Slide 2: retronaut.com Slide 4: © User: PetroffM / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 Slide 5: © User: Laudauch / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 Slide 9: © Herr Klugbeisser / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 Slide 10: © User: BabelStone / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 Slide 11: © Chez Cåsver / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-2.0 Slides 14-15: © Giovanni Dall’Orto / Wikimedia Commons Slide 17: © Anton Croos / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 Slide 20: © User: Hajor / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 All unlisted images are in the public domain and do not require attribution.
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