Ancient Writing Materials: Wood


Wood was one of the earliest writing materials, and continued to be used for various purposes. Wood could be inscribed or written on in ink. One interesting use of wood can be seen in our collection of mummy tags. A mummy tag is a piece of wood held by a string around the neck of a mummy, on which the name of the mummified person was written. These tags, which have been likened to modern toe-tags, must have been essential for avoiding embarassing mix-ups at the mummy morgue!

wooden mummy tag for a woman named Anoubiaina
full image: front | back


Another example of wood is this schoolboy's writing exercise. On the wooden tablet below, a young student has diligently copied out the letters of the alphabet. If you look at the larger image of the front side, you will see that each column contains a series of syllables, including each of the vowels (epsilon, eta, iota, omicron, upsilon, omega) sandwiched between two consonants.

On the back side, the alphabet is written in three different ways. First, from alpha to omega. Second, from omega to alpha. Third, alternating first and last letters (alpha followed by omega, then beta followed by psi, etc.) This was a standard way of learning the Greek alphabet.

schoolboy's writing exercise
wood tablet
full image: front | back




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Last modified: 03/11/2014