Papyrus was the most important writing material in the ancient world. Our word “”paper”” derives from the word “”papyrus,”” an Egyptian word that originally meant “”that which belongs to the house”” (the bureaucracy of ancient Egypt). Papyrus is a triangular reed that used to grow along the banks of the Nile, and at an early stage of their history the Egyptians developed a kind of writing material made out of the pith within the stem of the papyrus plant. At the same time they developed a script that ultimately provided the model for the two most common alphabets in the world, the Roman and the Arabic.
The task of the papyrologist is not only to decipher, transcribe and edit what is preserved, but also to reconstruct what is lost between fragments and reconstruct the whole. Most fragments of literature derive from rolls of papyrus, which could extend up to 35 feet in length. Papyrus was the most important writing material of the ancient world and perhaps ancient Egypt’s most important legacy; alongside it were used other (often cheaper) materials, like wood and clay (broken pottery sherds with writing are called ostraca).
On these materials were recorded everything from high literature to the myriad of Nine of ten published texts are private letters or documents of every conceivable documents and other communications of daily life. they reflect the quotidian affairs of government, commerce, and personal life in much the same way that modern records do. From the papyri, moreover, have come abundant new works of religious literature not only for Judaism and Christianity but also for traditional Greek and Roman cults, for Manicheism, and for the early history of Islam.
The papyri are also our most important source for the actual working of law in ancient societies. In addition to he papyri, the Michigan collection contains other writing surfaces that were in use in the ancient world, such as ostraca (pot shards), lead, wax and wooden tablets, parchment, and rarely, paper. The papyri are mainly in Greek, but with a range similar to that of Michigan. Condition of the Materials But it is of course much older than most paper manuscripts, and most papyri are torn on several, if not all, sides. They usually emerge dirty, crumpled, and twisted, unless they have been preserved in a box or jar (as occasionally happens).
Ostraca are often broken, and sometimes have ignificant salt in the fabric if they have lain in land reached by the Nile’s waters. Papyrus, also paper reed, common name for a plant of the sedge family. The plant grows about 1 to 3 m (about 3 to 10 ft) The leaves are long and sharp-keeled, and the upright flowering stems are naked, soft, and triangular in shape. The papyrus of the Egyptians was made of slices of the cellular pith laid lengthwise, with other layers laid crosswise on it. whole was then moistened with water, pressed and dried, and rubbed smooth with ivory or a smooth shell. The Egyptians wrote on papyrus in regular columns.