Starting with a brief summary of the recent discussion on the introduction of writing in India, the article examines the material contexts of the written texts produced during the reign of the Indian emperor Aśoka (r. 268-232 BCE). Even if these inscriptions on rocks and rock pillars may not have been the first written evidence, they represent the most extensive and diverse corpus of written texts from the early phase of writing in South Asia. Although this corpus only covers a period of less than twenty years, it shows a fairly quick development and improvement in various material aspects of writing, including writing materials, techniques, surfaces and text transmission.