Papyrus- More Than Writing Paper – Think Boats


The First Sail Boat

Today papyrus is recognized by many as just the paper sedge, the source of paper used for writing from 3300 BC until 900 AD, a span of almost four thousand years.   

   Egyptians weren’t  alone in this discovery. From around 6000 BCE until the advent of the wooden boat in 3500 BCE papyrus fulfilled another need, the reed boat, a vehicle that launched Egyptian civilization on that great internal highway called the Nile. 

     Throughout several river deltas in the arid world and the lake cultures in treeless high altitudes, reeds were used to build boats that made life easier for people who depended on boats for transportation of any significance.During this time the slim, ultra light, papyrus reed craft evolved, which became the sailboat, a craft that was very useful for going upriver from the delta using wind to carry it against the current. 

     The early sailboat was equipped with rigging made from papyrus rope, a sail made from finely made thin papyrus mats and a cabin or superstructure made from papyrus stems.  The only things not from the swamp were the wooden mast and the rock used for an anchor.  

     Of course all during those seven thousand years papyrus also provided a source of paper, a refuge for birds and a biological filter to control erosion and provide a natural balance on the Nile. 

   A plant for all ages, it still provides a bird refuge and pollution filter in Africa today. – Images & Script Source:  BwanaPapyrus.


The earliest discovered remains from a 7000 year-old reed boat were found in Kuwait.  They were also constructed from early times in Peru and Bolivia, and boats with remarkably similar design have been found in Easter Island.  Reed boats are still used in Peru, Bolivia, Ethiopia, and until recently in Corfu.


Scribe's equipment - Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre

A scribe’s equipment consisted of a palette with wells, brushes also made from reeds, crushed mineral pigments, rolls of papyrus.  Papyrus cutters were needed to straighten the edges of the sheets and smoothing tools smoothed the sheets and seals.


For more…

  1. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just
    preparing to do some research about this. We got a grab a book
    from our local library but I think I learned more
    from this post. I’m very glad to see such wonderful information being shared freely out there.


    • Anne said:

      It’s such an interesting subject, isn’t it? The Link ‘Field of Reeds’ is well worth a look; I guess you’ve already been there, by the sound of it.


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