Museum guide at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, demonstrates to author and other guests on how fresh papyrus stalk is cut and split, then laid crosswise, one layer on top of another, and pressed with a mechanical presser (background, second photo). The mat is dried and pounded to attain evenness and smoothness. Now it is ready for use as writing and drawing material. Papyrus is the first paper, hence the name).
Author inspects papyrus drawings and paintings depicting the rich history of ancient Egypt, the oldest civilization in the western world. Hieroglyphics (picture story) on papyrus, like Chinese calligraphy (language signs), make an art distinct and unique from all the arts in the world. Papyrus art is a major attraction to scholars and tourists, and contributes significantly to the Egyptian tourism industry.
Papyrus is highly adapted in humid tropical countries like the Philippines. The conditions are similar to those along the Nile River. The local industry developed from papyrus and related species is the making of mats, baskets, curtain and blinds.
Cyperus papyrus belongs to the sedge family, Cyperaceae, to which our own tikiw (cattail) and barsaga (Cyperus rotundos), a persistent weed on the farm, belong. It is a native of southern Europe, Syria and Africa. Egyptian manuscripts and paintings were done on paper made from this plant as early as 2400 BC. A cheap imitation is made from banana stalk.
Photos of the plant were taken at UP Sunken Garden,