Papyrus scrolls have told historians much about the history of ancient Egypt. Today painting on the traditional Egyptian paper are a popular souvenir all over Egypt.
Papyrus scrolls are sold on the street and in artisan workshops all over Egypt. Egypt speaking salesmen give presentations about how the plant is processed to tourists. Our welcome drink was Hibiscus tea.
Papyrus is a triangular-shaped wetland sedge that grows in the Nile river. (Sedges have edges, thank you Tim Smith and Jack Mountain Bushcraft School for teaching me that.) Because of it’s pyramid-shaped cross section it was considered a holy plant honoring Amun-Re.
Papyrus grows 3-4 meters high and is the symbol of lower (or Northern) Egypt. The lotus (another wetland plant is the symbol of upper Egypt. The first step in making papyrus paper is removing the outer green part with a knife. This part can be used to make baskets, boats and other woven things.
The inner white part is very fragile. The next step is to use a mallet and a rolling pin to remove the excess water making the papyrus stronger and more flexible.
Once the water is removed, the papyrus sits in water for 6 days to remove the sugar. The water is changed every day.
The salesman demonstrated using a wooden mallet to hammer out the papyrus. The Greeks introduces the paper we use today to the Egyptians.
This wooden rolling pin made the papyrus strips thin and wrung out the moisture.
Once the strips have been soaking for 6 days (or 12 days to make brown papyrus) they are arranged vertically and horizontally to make a 2-layer sheet of interwoven strips.
The papyrus mat is put between two pieces of felt for 6 days to dry. Ancient Egyptians woudl use linen and heavy stones for this portion.
Today, a giant press is used instead of heavy stones to dry the papyrus and ensure it’s flat and smooth.
A lot of sellers will peddle weak, brittle paper made from banana leaves or sugar cane. Real papyrus is strong and flexible and can be rolled.
When you hold real papyrus up to the light you should be able to see the horizontal and vertical stripes.
This famous scene, like most of the artwork in this workshop was painted by the Faculty of Fine Arts at South Valley University. It depicts the final judgement of a soul. 14 judges preside over the ruling at the top of the image. Anubis looks at the scales of judgement to weigh the heart of the deceased agains the feather of truth. . If the heart doesn’t pass the test, the crocodile headed hippo animal eats the heart and the soul doesn’t get eternal life in the afterworld.