Ostracon: an inscribed potsherd.
Occasionally, literary texts were written on ostraca: Diogenes Laertius tells us that Cleanthes recorded the philosophical opinions of his teacher Zeno on sherds,note[Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the philosophers 7.174.] and one fragment of the poetry of Sappho has been transmitted to us on an ostracon. In Egypt, ostraca have been found with pictures.Ostraca are important because they help us understand daily life, but they also document the development of the ancient languages. Because they were written by ordinary people, we can find all kinds of writing errors that help us understand how the old languages were actually pronounced (the Bu Njem Ostraca record the disappearance of the /m/ at the end of Latin words in the third century). From Athens, we have a great many ostraca that help us reconstruct political life: sometimes, the people felt that a politician was becoming too popular to operate within the democratic system. These politicians could be sent into exile by ostracism, a voting procedure in which the names were written on sherds.