About 2,000 years ago, people in China invented paper. Over time, the technique for making paper moved west along the Silk Road, a network of trade routes across Asia. As paper spread, people could make books more easily. These books opened up a new age of learning, especially in the Middle East. Islamic scholars took the lead in the study of science, literature, and mathematics.

Description: thin, flat material used for writing and printing
Material: pieces of plant or cloth
First Invented: China, more than 2000 years ago
Characteristics: light, flexible, inexpensive to make
Significance: Paper became a widespread resource for recording and spreading ideas.
Cool Fact: The first European paper was made in the 1100s by Islamic craftsmen living in Spain.

Image credits: main image, © AMNH/Division of Anthropology.