“Papyrus Paper” is a bit of a tautological phrase since the word paper comes from the word papyrus – the Greek name of the specific plant that this type of paper comes from.
And although papyrus paper was invented in ancient Egypt much earlier than the invention of paper as we know it today, the process of making each type differs enough to separate them completely.
And because of that, we attribute the invention of paper-making to the Chinese rather than the Egyptians.
Uses of the Papyrus Plant
Papyrus is a plan that used to grow in abundance in the Nile Delta – the northern part of the land around the Nile, which looks like a big V. The plant is a really long, bamboo-looking green stalk with a fuzzy top.
It grows in many other places in the world but the ancient Egyptians made it famous by using it for many things like paper, rope, stuffing for cushions…
They even used it to make boats and sandals. So it was a really useful discovery!
The ancient Egyptians also recorded a lot of historical, religious, medical, scientific and literary texts on papyrus. This was mainly done by scribes and their apprentices, and the records were usually kept in the House of Life – libraries usually attached to temples.
Some interesting papyrus paper records include:
- The Harem Conspiracy Papyrus which recorded the trial of people suspected of plotting the assassination of King Ramesses III.
- The Ebers Papyrus is a medical papyrus describing methods used to examine patients.
- The Edwin Smith Papyrus which recorded different medical tools and their uses as well as surgical procedures.
- The Papyrus Westcar which describes massage techniques for physiotherapy.
- Papyrus Anastasi 3 which describes the life of an ancient Egyptian soldier.
The image of the papyrus plant itself was used in ancient Egypt as a symbol of Lower Egypt. Remember, Lower Egypt is actually the northern part of the country, which is where the Nile Delta is.
How to Make Egyptian Papyrus Paper
Many workshops in Egypt still make papyrus paper, and we have a lot of artists that paint on the paper, recreating ancient Egyptian scenes. They are a favorite souvenir.
If you want to see a few pieces from my own personal collection, click here.
But here’s the general process in 7 easy steps:
- Start by cutting the plant and only using the long stem.
- Depending on how long and wide you want the paper, cut the stems accordingly in the same length for the horizontal strips and then the same length for the vertical strips.
- Strip away the hard outer cover of the stems from around the softer inner core.
- Cut the inner core into very thin strips and then soak them for a couple of hours in water.
- Take the soacked strips and line them up on a flat, hard surface. Place the horizontal strips first, close together. Line the vertical strips on top of them also close together. You’ll find the edges stick out a little bit and that’s OK, they’re supposed to look like this.
- Now you have a wet papyrus sheet in front of you. Roll up your sleeves and start hammering it so the strips stick together.
- Place something heavy on top of the sheet and leave it to dry.
And voila! You’ve just made your own papyrus paper!
Wanna see it in action? Here’s a link to a Youtube video from a papyrus workshop in Cairo. Enjoy 🙂
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