A 2,000-year-old piece of paper inscribed with legible handwriting has been found in Gansu Province, suggesting that China's paper-making and handwriting history are older than previously thought.
The 10 square centimeter piece of paper, made from linen fibers, was found during restoration of an ancient garrison near the Yumen Pass at Dunhuang in northwest China. The garrison was in use during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-25 A.D.), a report in the Beijing-based Guangming Daily said.
"The paper was made in 8 B.C., more than 100 years before the birth of Cai Lun who is widely considered the inventor of paper-making in China. It also shows that the ancient Chinese have been writing on paper for much longer than we thought," said Fu Licheng, curator of the Dunhuang Museum.
Cai Lun successfully made paper out of tree bark, cloth, and fishing nets in 105 A.D.
Experts say so far over 20 ancient Chinese characters on the paper have been identified, and that the piece of paper was likely part of a letter.