The Process of Papyrus to Papers in Ancient Egypt

Paper use represented a significant cultural advancement.
••• Hemera Technologies/ Images

The papyrus plant was of tremendous importance within the ancient Egyptian civilization. The plant served many uses, but the most significant was its development as a source of raw materials for the production of paper. The ancient Egyptians developed a process for the harvesting, manufacture, use and storage of this valuable material.

Facts, Growing and Harvesting

Papyrus grew along the banks of the Nile River.
••• Images

Papyrus is a tall, reed-like, fresh water plant with a stunning blossom, sometimes reaching a height of 15 feet, that grows along the banks of the Nile River. Egyptian drawings depict laborers harvesting the plants from the marshes, then tying them into bundles. Papyrus was used to make paper as early as 3100 B.C. Many scrolls recovered from tombs are dated to that era.

Preparation into Sheets

The soft pith formed the writing surface of papyrus.
••• Images

The steps the ancient Egyptians used to create a writing surface from the papyrus plant have been recreated by contemporary archaeologists. The stalks are soaked in order to remove the green rind, then split into thin strips. These strips of soft pith were arranged in two vertical and two horizontal layers, then pounded with a stone or mallet and dried to form a single sheet which was rubbed with a stone or shell to create a smooth texture for the application of ink or paint.


Papyrus was sometimes reused.
••• Images

Once inscribed, papyrus sheets were joined together in long rolls, approximately a foot wide, that could end up hundreds of feet long. High-quality papyrus intended for writing was a costly product, and sometimes writing was washed off in order to reuse the sheets. Ancient Egyptians used reed brushes and pens as writing implements. Some of the substances used for writing and painting included charcoal, iron oxide and malachite.


Recovered papyrus is most often found in tombs.
••• Images

Papyrus scrolls were often stored in wooden chests, sacred statues and jars and have been unearthed from tombs. One famous example is a version of the Book of the Dead, a 52-foot long funerary scroll containing spells and incantations found in a coffin belonging to the wealthy construction foreman Kha and his wife Merit, who were entombed around 1386-1349 B.C. The ancient Egyptians also maintained royal archives, where accounting, day books and other administrative letters were stored, all written on papyrus.

Related Articles

List of Things Dr. George Carver Invented With Peanuts
Linen in Ancient Egypt
How Ink Is Made
How to Build an Ancient Egyptian Tomb for a School...
Mojave Indian Tools
How to Build a Model Sod House for a School Project
Farming Tools in Ancient Egypt
Salts in Ancient Egyptian Times
How is Pinewood Made?
What Products Are Made From Seaweed?
Facts About Cedar Trees
A Newly Discovered Tomb Full of Mummies Could Hold...
Faience in Ancient Egypt
List of Neolithic Stone Tools
Uses for Gypsum Powder
Tools Made by People in Ancient Mesopotamia
What Types of Rocks Are in Tennessee?
How to Build a Pyramid for a School Project
Uses of Carbon Graphite
Quick Facts on Rubber