The earliest example of written Georgian is from a church in Palestine and has been dated to the 5th century. It is written in a script called Asomtavruli, meaning 'capital letter', or Mrglovani, meaning rounded. As suggested by these names, the letters were characterized by their uniform height and rounded appearance.
There are two contesting theories regarding the creation of the Asomtavruli script. The more widely accepted view names Mesrop Mashtots (who also created the Armenian script) as the original inventor. This is borne out by certain similarities in the scripts, such as the ordering of the letters and some similarities in letter forms, and by archaeological evidence. However, Georgian records attribute the invention of the script to King Parnavaz of Iberia, who, it is suggested, used it to translate sacred Zoroastrian texts into Georgian.
By the 9th century, the rounded Asomtavruli letters had evolved into more angular forms called the Nushkuri script. These two scripts were used in combination, the former providing the upper case set and the letter, the lower case, in a style called Khutsuri. This is analogous to the development of upper and lower case in the Latin script, in which the earlier, inscriptional form became the upper case and the later manuscript form became the lower case.
Sometime around the 11th century a third script, Mkhedruli, began to be used for writing Georgian. Scholars disagree as to whether Mkhedruli is derived from the Khutsuri style or whether it developed or was created independently of the other scripts. The word "mkhedruli" has its roots in the word "mkhedari", meaning "warrior", which some feel implies a secular origin unrelated to that of the ecclesiatical scripts which preceded it. In any case, this third script began to be used for secular purposes only, and by the 13th century was used for all secular literary purposes. The Khutsuri style continued to be used in religious media until the 18th century. In 1709, the first printing house was established in Georgia (since the 1620s a printing house in Italy had been printing Georgian-language texts) and since the advent of Mkhedruli printing the Georgian language has been written almost exclusively in the Mkhedruli script.