Before the invention of paper, various cultures used many different materials as media to record written information. Stone, metal, wood, clay, parchment, cloth, tree leaves, bark, and rice-pith "paper" have all filled this role at one time or another. And we mustnít forget Papyrus.
Papyrus has played an important role in history. The oldest written papyrus rolls date back 5000 years.
Did you know?The word "paper" is taken from the Greek and Latin words for papyrus.
Papyrus is a plant which grows about 1 to 3 m (3 to 10 ft) tall and has a woody, creeping rhizome (underground stem). The leaves are long and sharp-keeled, and the upright flowering stems are hairless, soft, and triangular in cross-section. The lower part of the stem is as thick as a human arm. Papyrus grows in Egypt (the Nile Valley), Sudan, the River Jordan valley, and swampy areas of Africa.
The papyrus of the Egyptians was made of slices of the leaf pith laid lengthways, with other layers criss-crossed over it. The whole was then moistened with water, pressed and dried, and rubbed smooth with ivory or a smooth shell. The sheets of papyrus, varying from about 12.5 by 22.5 cm (5 by 9 in) to about 22.5 by 37.5 cm (9 by 15 in), were made into rolls, probably some 6 to 9 m (20 to 30 ft) in length.
The Egyptians wrote on papyrus in regular columns, which in literary prose rarely exceeded 7.6 cm (3 in) in width; in poetry the columns were often wider in order to accommodate the length of the verse.
Did you know?Besides making paper, Papyrus was used for many other purposes. Various parts were used in antiquity, including wreaths for the head, sandals, boxes, boats, and rope. The roots were dried and used as fuel. The pith of the stem was boiled and eaten.
The Greeks seem to have known papyrus as early as the beginning of the 5th century BC, but the earliest extant Greek papyrus is believed to be the Persae of the poet Timotheus. The use of papyrus for literary works continued among the Greeks and Romans to the 4th century AD, when it was superseded by parchment, which was cheaper. It was still used for official and private documents until the 8th or 9th century.
Contents / History: Egyptians - Chinese & Asians - Arabs & Europeans.