Thursday, May 27, 2010

Egypt: How To Make Paper Like a Pharoah

Step 1: First, you need some papyrus. If you don't have any growing near you, all it takes is a quick trip to the banks of the Nile in the lower kingdom where the papyrus thickets grow with abandon. To the ancient Egyptians, the papyrus symbolized fertility and life. It was also said to hold up the sky.

Interestingly enough, the cross section of the papyrus stalk is a triangle shape. I think it might be connected to those pyramid things or something. They do kind of hold up the sky in one sense or another.

(Thanks, google images.)

Step 2: Peeling the rind and cutting the stalk.
Next you use a sharp knife to cut off the green outer coating until you are left with the cellulose stalk on the inside. This is then sliced lengthwise into thin strips. If you take the rind and try to pull it in two, you'll find that it's tough. Real tough. Jill and Hannah tried to rip it by sheer force but they couldn't. More gym time, ladies. More gym time.

Step 3: Soak the papyrus.
Submerge the strips in room temperature water for 2 to 3 days. When you soak the strips, it releases the inner liquid. This liquid is a type of glue and will help bind the fibers together. Remove from the water, roll them with a rolling pin to flatten the strips and soak them again in fresh water. Do this soaking and rolling 2 or 3 times. The longer you soak it, the darker the paper becomes. I think it's 6 days for for cream colored papyrus; 12 days for chocolate colored papyrus.

Step 4: Prepare the strips for the paper press.
To do this, you take the strips out of the water once more, grab a nearby mallet, think of something that frustrates you, and then pound that papyrus. Keep pounding until most of the water comes out. Once more, take a rolling pin and flatten the strips so they truly are as thin as paper.

Step 5: Lay the flattened strips lengthwise and crosswise on a board. Make sure they overlap so that there aren't any gaps in the paper. (The finished look reminded me of plaid fabric.) If you have a big wooden press, that's awesome. If not, you'll have to use something really heavy. Keep the papyrus under pressure until all of the moisture is absorbed; probably about 2 or 3 days.


Now the only thing left to do is sign up for hieroglyphics classes.

No comments: