What was Papyrus?

The first man-made writing materials was papyrus, made from the papyrus, made from the papyrus plant. Papyrus was invented about 2000 B.C. by the Egyptians. For about 2,500 years more, it was the only writing material used by man.

Papyrus is a reedlike plant belonging to the family of sedge. It grows to a height of from 1 to 3 meters. The stems are drooping, slender branches, like shaggy, coarse hair. The leaves are small and the roots are strong.

The Roman, historian Pliny has left a description of how the ancient papyrus was made. The stems of the papyrus plant were peeled apart and flattened. The center one was the broadest and most valuable.

These strips were laid side by side. Across them, at right angles, other strips were placed. The layers were glued together by the muddy water of of the Nile or with a wheat-flour paste. The sheets thus formed were then hammered or rolled that and dried in the sun.

At one time, papyrus writing material was one of Egypt’s chief articles of commerce. All diplomatic papers for centuries were written on papyrus, until parchment took its place. Each piece was marked with a stamp to prove its value.

Baskets were also woven from the slender stalks of the papyrus plant. From its thicker stalks, mats and sails were made. Its pith, when boiled, furnished food for the poor, and when dried was used for fuel. So you can see how useful this plant was in ancient times.

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