Hatran writing was discovered in 1912 in present-day al-Hadr, an ancient city in the al-Jazira region of Iraq which used to be called Hatra. Over 100 stone inscriptions were uncovered by archaeologists working for Iraqi Department of Antiquities; since then approximately 500 more texts have been discovered. Most of these were short, and as a result it has been difficult to deduce a great deal about the Aramaic dialect, called Aramaic of Hatra, which the script represented.

The Hatran script is an abjad; vowels were not written but matres lectiones were sometimes used to indicate the long vowels /o:/ and /ı:/.