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The word "paper" is etymologically derived from papyrus, Ancient Greek for the Cyperus papyrus plant.
Papyrus is a thick, paper-like material produced from the pith of the Cyperus papyrus plant which was used in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean societies for writing long before paper was used in China.
On the contrary: up to this point China was lagging behind those Mediterranean societies where papyrus was used and where light, inexpensive scrolls could be created.
But thereafter the advantage swung the other way, since papyrus, which is composed of organic material not as highly processed as paper, was prone to splitting and deterioration at a much greater rate; this may be why vellum eventually came to dominate, especially in the harsher climate of Northern Europe.
The earliest extant paper fragment was unearthed at Fangmatan in Gansu province, and was likely part of a map, dated to 179–141 BCE.
"Cai Lun's" invention, recorded hundreds of years after it took place, is dated to 105 CE.
By the 11th century, papermaking was brought to Europe.
By the 13th century, papermaking was refined with paper mills utilizing waterwheels in Spain.
However, the discovery of specimens bearing written Chinese characters in 2006 at Fangmatan in north-east China's Gansu Province suggests that paper was in use by the ancient Chinese military more than 100 years before Cai, in 8 BCE, and possibly much earlier as the map fragment found at the Fangmatan tomb site dates from the early 2nd century BCE.
It is lucky chance that the date of CE 105 was recorded, because Cai Lun, the official involved, who seems to have introduced some improvements in paper manufacture, worked at the palace as a eunuch.