Papyrus was discovered in Egypt over 5,000 years ago. The plant was discovered on the banks of the river Nile. The plant was growing as a tall, common marsh plant and was discovered to be a good material for making all sorts of household wares. The Egyptians had a monopoly in the use of papyrus since they kept it as a secret the way it was produced (Hart, 1997). Papyrus was very important to the ancient Egyptians and the plant helped transform the whole of Egyptian society and the rest if the world in a very significant way.
The process of preparing the papyrus plant begins when the tall plants are cut into bundles and each stem is stripped and the rind is removed. The rind was then cut into short pieces which were then cut into strips that were narrow. After that, the papyrus pith was soaked in water for about three days to ensure that the fibers became flexible and translucent. A flat object was then used to arrange two layers of the papyrus strips which were arranged at right angles and then pressed to ensure that the strips lost all the water and became fused together. The final sheets were then dried under direct sunlight after which they were polished and put together to form single sheets of papyrus paper (Pinch, 2004).
Influence and use in Ancient Egypt
Papyrus brought about a major revolution in writing and record keeping. Before it was discovered, people used to keep records on slab clays which were in most cases very difficult to carry around and the slabs could also not be accessed easily by every person. With the discovery of the paper, information could be easily and reliably passed across because the paper was portable and different types of information like laws, taxes and orders could be easily tracked. Writing moved from just using pictures. There was creation of symbols to represent the sounds of the language spoken. It therefore made it easy for people to record their stories, ideas, religious beliefs and music on papyrus paper. Papyrus was used to make boats, baskets and ropes. Furthermore, it was also used to make other utilities like baskets, chairs and tables and also used as medicine and perfume.
Papyrus paper served as a key medium through which ancient Egyptians expressed their myths and religious beliefs. Basically, religion and myths served as key pillars of life in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians used the papyrus papers to make paintings depicting different mythologies and events related to those mythologies. The papyrus were viewed as the natural symbol of life and seen as the source of life. According Egyptian mythology, the sky was held in its place by papyrus pillars and this was also done in temples, which used papyrus columns in its roofs to reflect this symbolism.
Spread of papyrus from Egypt to the rest of the world
Papyrus use quickly spread to other countries starting with the whole of the Mediterranean and then to Europe, starting with Greece (Hart, 1997). It notably played a big role in the spread of Christianity as papyrus scrolls were used as medium to spread the Christian faith across the world. Most of the recorded documents on history and religion could only survive the many years and harsh weather conditions because of being recorded on papyrus. It therefore served as an important document for preserving historical documents.
In conclusion, papyrus was one of the discoveries that transformed ancient Egypt since it became a medium through which the Egyptians could express their art, religion and lifestyles. It not only changed the Egyptian way of life but also other countries across the world because it led to better recording , writing and transfer of cultures and information.
Hart, G. (1997). Egyptian myths: legendary past series. Houston: University of Texas Press.
Pinch, J. (2004). Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of
Ancient Egypt: London: Oxford University Pres