Papyrus reeds played a very important part in the life
of the Ancient Egyptians. This plant, found along the banks of the Nile River
grew easily in the fertile soil, and often reached a height of as much as ten
feet.

It had many uses, the most well-known being in the
production of a form of paper known as papyrus. It was also used for making
rafts, boxes, sandals, baskets and everyday household items.

Once the Ancient Egyptians had developed
a form of writing
, they needed something to write on. They wrote on tablets
of clay and walls, but neither of these was convenient for storage, nor for
sending messages.

No-one knows how they came up with the idea for papyrus
paper, but they did. Making the paper took time but wasn’t difficult.

First, they gathered the reeds from along the banks of
the Nile. The stems were needed to make the paper. The thick outer layer of the
stem was removed. Next, they cut long thin strips from the stem. The strips were
full of sugar, and in order to remove some of the sugar they soaked them in
water for about three days.

The strips were then pounded to remove more sugar and
laid side-by-side. Each strip slightly overlapped the one next to it. The
remaining sugar acted like a glue, and stuck the strips together.

A second set of strips was laid on top of the first. This
layer was perpendicular to the first layer. They were then pounded again, to
stick them together.

All that remained was to dry them out. Although this
sounds like the easiest part, it was probably the most difficult. The water
needed to be removed, but the layers needed to be held together. They were
probably laid between sheets of cotton, or similar absorbent material. The
entire thing was then placed under a heavy weight.

Once the sheets were dried, they were polished with a
stone. Then they were ready for use.


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