Papyrus

Papyrus, is most well known as the paper used by the ancient Egyptians. But what is papyrus? Papyrus, or Cyperus Papyrus L, is a flowering fresh water reed. It is believed that the plant originated in Egypt and spread from there. While papyrus was used for writing material, it was also a very important part of the Ancient Egyptians lives. Papyrus was used to make paper, baskets, bedding, fires, medicine, decorations, was used in boat building, and even eaten as food.

The ancient Egyptians found many uses for the papyrus plant. It is said that the roots were eaten by the peasant class. The stem was also eaten. It was eaten raw, stewed or baked. When the plant was eaten raw, it was eaten much like the modern sugar cane: the pulp was chewed, the juices were sucked out, and then the remains were spit out and discarded. Papyrus was also used medicinally. Most commonly, the plant was burned and the ashes were applied on wounds or drunken by ailing Egyptians.

The stalks of the papyrus plant were used to make useful household items for the Egyptian people. With the stalks, they made baskets, webbing for their bedding, floor mats, curtains, containers, and utensils. Because wood was scarce, papyrus stalks were used to create fires. Papyrus was also employed to make sandals.

Papyrus was an indispensable material used in Egyptian boat building. Dried papyrus stalks were tied tightly together into an elongated oval form and made into boats. These boats were used to collect more papyrus or to fish. In addition to this, the papyrus plant was used to caulk larger wooden boats.

Papyrus was most popularly processed into a paper product by the Ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians kept their procedures for processing papyrus into writing material secret so that they might become the supplier of papyrus to other nations. While papyrus eventually was replaced by linen, parchment and vellum, papyrus was utilized by the Egyptians until the 9th century. The word "paper" comes from the word "papyrus". Museums across the world have collections of ancient writings inscribed upon papyrus paper.

In the tenth century, the papyrus plant began to disappear in Egypt due to changes in the Nile's environment. The plant was again reintroduced in Egypt during the twentieth century and can be found growing there today. It is more commonly found in Central Africa's swampy areas. The original art of making papyrus into paper disappeared with the ancient Egyptians but in the 1960's, Dr. Hassan Ragab, an Egyptian scientist, found a way to make paper out of papyrus again.

The following links include images of ancient documents, instructions on how to make papyrus paper, information about the plant, a game, a video and more.

Duke Papyrus Archive: From ancient papyrus documents to ancient papyrus maps, Duke's Papyrus Archive has many examples of ancient papyrus.

Egypt and Papyrus: This webpage tells the story of the papyrus, the uses, its history and what is happening with it today. It includes images of the papyrus plants and objects made from it.

Papyrus (5th Century B.C.E. - 8th Century C.E.): The history of papyrus from the 5th century B.C.E. until the 8th century C.E. and images of papyrus can be found here.

Papyrus on NOVA: Watch a video about papyrus found in an ancient dump in Egypt, find out how papyrus paper is made, and see fragments of the ancient documents on this webpage.

Make Papyrus Paper: Learn how to make papyrus paper and find out more about ancient Egyptian papyrus on this webpage.

Papyrus Puzzle Game: Imagine how difficult it would be to piece together fragments of an ancient papyrus scroll. This webpage gives you a chance to try your hand at it.

Digital Images of Papyri: Links to digital images of ancient Pharaonic, Christian, Greek and Arabic papyri can be found on this webpage.

Cyperus Papyrus L.: A webpage dedicated to the Cyperus papyrus L.