Papyrus is an aquatic plant that when processed makes an excellent "paper" for writing. The plant was first used in Egypt over 5000 years ago, and was thought to be a symbol of the sun.
The papyrus plant grows in water in marshy areas, and was quite plentiful in ancient Egypt. They can grow to be almost 15 feet high, though most plants do not get that large. Much of the plant stays beneath the surface of the water (like an iceburg) and only the very top of the stalk and the flower are visible above the water's surface.
Papyrus paper was made by the Egyptians by cutting down green papyrus reeds and sutting the inner plant into thin strips. Papyrus contains high amounts of glucose (sugar) which must be removed before the plant can be used to make paper. To do this, the papyrus strips were soaked in river water for 6 days, changing the water every day. The stips were then woven together and pressed between layers of cotton and felt for six days, or until the payrus was dry. When the cotton and felt were removed the papyrus was ready to be used immediately or could be safely rolled up and saved for later use.
Besides paper, the Ancient Egyptians also used papyrus for weaving baskets, boats, shoes, clothing, and furnature.
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