Ancient history


Papyrus is a very common plant in Egypt that was used to produce a sheet that served as a surface for the ancient Egyptians to write on.

The papyrus is a plant that was found in abundance in Egypt and was used in the manufacture of different items, such as papyrus leaves, used for writing. Papyrus was one of the most used supports for writing in Antiquity.

Its production was long and required qualified personnel, the scribes. This made papyrus sheets an expensive commodity, so scribes went through a long training process. Papyrus lost ground with the emergence of parchment, but was widely used until the 11th century AD.

Read more: History of reading — is closely associated with the history of writing media

Papyrus Summary

  • Papyrus is an aquatic plant found in abundance in Egypt.

  • It was used in the manufacture of different items.

  • For the manufacture of papyrus leaves, the Egyptians used the stems of the plant.

  • The process of producing papyrus sheets is believed to have emerged around 3000 BC

  • Papyrus lost some influence with the advent of parchment.

Papyrus Origin

When referring to papyrus, what comes to mind are papyrus sheets, used by ancient Egyptians to write their texts. A before if r raw material , the papyrus already was a very common plant in Egypt. Its scientific name is Cyperus papyru s, and the plant is found in swampy places. Different products were made from it, among which were:sheets, ropes, baskets, rugs, shoes, etc.

The papyrus word gave birth to paper word , the writing medium we use today. The name of the plant and leaves was given by the Greeks and derived from the Egyptian word papuro. Despite this, the Egyptians called the plant djet , tjufi or wadj . Papyrus sheets were called by the Egyptians djema . The production of papyrus sheets is believed to have been developed in Egypt around 3000 BC.

Production of papyrus sheets

Egypt was the great producer of papyrus in antiquity, and this was due to the abundance of the plant in the region. From the moment the Egyptians realized the uses that could be made of the plant, it began to be cultivated on farms, and its planting and management were under strict control of the Egyptian government.

Papyrus was a plant that could reach five meters in height, and the production of leaves was done with the stems of the plant. The papyrus production process It worked like this:

  1. The plant was taken out of the ground, and then its stem was cut into small strips placed side by side, forming a surface.

  2. A resin was smeared on this surface, and a second layer of papyrus stems was smeared in another direction (one layer was horizontal and the other was vertical).

  3. The strips were pressed and placed for drying in the sun.

  4. After drying, the sheet was ready.

The production of the papyrus could happen in such a way that several pages were made at once. They were made by splicing each other, and this allowed the papyrus to be rolled. Papyrus scrolls were the most common way of organizing writings in antiquity. In general, papyri were produced in 20 pages, which was six to 10 meters. However, there are mentions of papyrus rolls of about 100 meters in length.

Read more: Mummification Process in Ancient Egypt

Using papyrus sheets

Papyrus sheets produced in Egypt became popular in antiquity and were used by Greeks and Romans, for example . The Egyptians used them mainly for governmental and religious purposes, and only people of good financial standing were able to access this commodity in Egypt.

Those responsible for recording information on papyrus sheets underwent demanding training and initially practiced on other surfaces, such as pieces of wood and stone. Only after much practice was a scribe allowed to use the papyrus sheets. The high price of the material justifies this care.

In general, papyrus sheets mediate:

  • religious texts;

  • hymns;

  • government documents;

  • scientific texts;

  • enchantments;

  • literary texts.

The Egyptians used the colors black and red to write. Papyrus sheets were widely used until around the 11th century AD.

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