British Museum/Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents

Two kinds of tablets have been found at Vindolanda: ink-leaf tablets, or thin pieces of wood inscribed with ink, and stylus tablets, or pieces of wood that were hollowed out, filled with wax and inscribed with a stylus. Whereas the ink-leaf tablets were often used for personal correspondence, the stylus tablets were used to record business transactions or legal texts—contracts, receipts and the like.

None of Vindolanda’s stylus tablets retains its wax, and so most of the texts are lost as well. On some tablets, however, heavy-handed scribes scratched the wood beneath the wax as they wrote their text—thus leaving behind traces of the writing.