Above: Front of Specimen Card
"Before we leave Egypt we shall also describe the nature of papyrus, since our civilization or at all events our records depend very largely on the employment of paper." ~ Pliny the Elder
This specimen is a fragment of Egyptian papyrus. It comes from a collection of fragmented papyri collected over many years by a German dealer of antiquities. Egyptian papyrus first appeared in the Third Edition of the Mini Museum. We are pleased to offer it once again as a single item.
The fragment is enclosed in an acrylic specimen jar with a removable top which arrives in a handsome, glass-topped riker box case measuring 4x3x1. A small information card is included, which also serves as the certificate of authenticity.
Please Note: Fragments vary widely in size, shape, and dimensions.
About Egyptian Papyrus
In ancient Egyptian cosmology, the world began as dry land emerged from the primeval waters. The darkness of the world was filled with light, and there in the marshy soil the papyrus grew. From this creation myth, the humble papyrus went on to serve as the symbol of life in Egypt for millennia. Yet, while ceilings of temples were held aloft by columns shaped like papyrus stems, the papyrus was far more than a religious symbol to the Egyptians; it was one source of their impressive commercial power in the ancient world.
Above: Papyrus plant by the banks of the Nile River.
Papyrus grows in tufted clumps in warm, marshy soil. The protein-rich roots can be boiled and eaten. The stalks are very strong when bound together and were used to build boats, woven into sandals and baskets, and used for any number of products including papyrus paper. Papyrus paper rivaled linen as a chief commercial export from Egypt and evidence suggests this writing material was in use for over 5,000 years.
Above: Papyri from the Third Edition of the Mini Museum
Given the enormous importance of papyrus paper, it should come as no surprise that the manufacturing process was a closely guarded state secret. The royal monarchy maintained such strict control of the industry that the first surviving record of the manufacturing method doesn’t appear until the first century CE, during the height of the Roman Empire.
In his Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder (23-79CE) describes a very labor-intensive process in which pith was removed from the center of the stalk and cut into thin strips. The strips were placed side by side and then a second layer was added perpendicular to the first. Muddy water from the Nile was applied as a binding agent and the layers were hammered together. After drying under pressure, these sheets were bound or pasted to form long scrolls.
Modern, chemical investigations of the binding properties of the papyrus plant indicate that no glues were actually needed. While papyrus contains very little starch or raw sugars, research suggests that long chains of fructose molecules known as fructans are indeed present. Boiling the papyrus stalks would likely allow these fructans to serve as the binding agent. Laboratory tests show that this type of natural papyrus paper is both more supple and durable than any made with glue or other natural binding agents.
Above: Back of Specimen Card