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1. Harvested papyrus stalks were cut into leaves: hats 40 cm. lengths and mats, baskets soaked roofing

2. Rind was removed to extract the pith of the stalk

3. the pith was cut into long narrow strips

4. A layer of strips were laid horizontally on a hard, flat surface 5. A second layer of verticle strips was laid over the first layer

stalks: houses, boats, fences, clothing, paper

6. A wooden mallet was used to tap the papyrus to release the natural sap that bonded the layers together 7. After drying the bonded sheets were smoothed with a stone, shell, bone or hard wood

8. Sheets were trimmed and stitched onto other sheets to form a scroll usually twenty sheets long

roots: medicines, food and perfumes

the side laid horizontally was called recto and was written on first, when a scroll was reused the verticle side called the verso was used

Useful Papyrus



foot reed snake

Markings found on pottery indicate that the first hieroglyphs appeared around folded cloth 4000 in Pre dynastic Egypt. They were first used for agricultural inventories listing harvests, land, animals and tools. horned The first clear use of the hieroglyphs to viper make a political statement was that of King Narmer on his famous stone palate. By the time of New Kingdom Egypt this system of writing had become a very powerful medium capable of expressing complex ideas. It employed at least 800 symbols. When the Rosetta Stone was carved in the Ptolemaic Era there were over 5,000 symbols.


jar stand


e/i h
twisted flax


basket with handle

upraised arms






There were three main types of glyphs: phonetic: glyphs that repressed the sounds of vowels and consonants; logographs: word pictures glyphs repressing an object, action or idea; determinatives: glyphs that helped the reader to distinguish between phonetic and logographic glyphs.

Sacred Signs


running water quail chick crown

n neb

looped rope

As Egyptian art and writing grew there basket was a need for simplified and faster methods of writing. The Egyptians used three scripts met their needs: 1. Hieroglyphic Script: the traditional form of glyphs. This was mainly used for inscribing monuments. 2. Hieratic Script: a shorted form of hieroglyphics that was easier to write on papyrus. This was used by the priests and temple scribes of Egypt. 3. Demotic Script: another shortened form of hieroglyphics used by the common people. It also was a more useful script for writing on papyrus and used for personal and administrative documents.


o r


p s/z
door bolt


s t th
tethering rope







Sacred Signs

According to the Egyptians the lunar deity, Thoth, was the inventor of writing and the god of scribes. Thoth manifested himself in two forms: Most often he appeared as a sacred ibis or as an ibis headed man who kept the records of the afterlife. Thoth was also depicted as a baboon or a baboon with a human face. The baboon, a nocturnal creature, sang at the moon and was considered wise and just. ibis headed Thoth writing

a scribes seated in the traditional manner taking down the words of Thoth

The professional class of scribes was held in great esteem in Egypt. the tools of the Scribes were fed from scribe: stone the royal or temple writing table, storehouses. They paint box and a served as copyists, wooden case with accountants, lawyers reed styluses and artists.

Training for scribes usually began at the age of nine. Schools for scribes were normally found behind the local temple. Discipline was severe and involved many beatings. Most learning was by rote and relied heavily on memorisation. Students wrote on ostraka or potsherds. It was not until they had mastered their craft that they were allowed to use papyrus.


Illustrations from the Book of the Dead depicting the Hall of Truth. Here the human soul is weighed against a feather by the god, Anubis. Thoth stands behind taking records and the fierce demon Ammut waits to devour those who fail.


The most elaborate of the ancient Egyptian funerary texts has been called The Book of the Dead. It is a collection of spells, hymns and instructions that was supposed to enable a dead person to pass through the many obstacles and dangers of the afterlife. It was usually written on a papyrus scroll and placed inside a tomb. Very often The Book of the Dead was lavishly illustrated. The text developed in the New Kingdom era from earlier works which are called the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts. In the Old and Middle Kingdom eras incantations were often inscribed on to the walls, sarcophagi and even burial objects. These inscriptions have been called Pyramid and Coffin Texts.

Spells from a Pyramid Text. Such incantations were powerful and could even compel the gods to do what the speaker had desired.

Gift of Thoth


Much of the history of Egypt can be found carved into the walls and pillars of the mortuary temples. These temples were used to prepare the bodies of the pharaohs for burial. For this reason they were often decorated with reliefs and inscriptions that extolled the achievements of the dead pharaoh. Three of the most famous of these mortuary temples were: Djeser Djeseru Djeser Djeseru: the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut with accounts of the seafaring expeditions to Punt; Ramasses the Great at the battle at Kadesh

coloured pillars from the Ramasseum


Ramasseum: the mortuary temple of Ramsses the Great with its history of the wars against the Hittites and the battle at Kadesh; Medinet Habu: the mortuary temple of Ramasses III with a history of the war against the Sea People and the naval battle in the Nile Delta.

Medinet Habu

Because the accounts on these temples are propaganda they must be treated sceptically by historians. Very often the accounts were exaggerated and even falsified to glorify the pharaoh.

Gift of Thoth

The Aegyptiaca could be considered the first national history of Egypt. It was written by a priest of Ra who served the god at parts of the Aegyptiaca of Heliopolis. His name Manetho was Manetho. Manetho lived in the Ptolemaic era. His history gives an account the reigns of the many pharaohs and divides them into dynasties. Only parts of his book have survived, but they have been useful to Egyptologists.

The Rosetta Stone is a famous ancient artefact. It is stele of hard, dark stone that was carved in 196BC during the Ptolemaic era. Its inscription has a the Rosetta Stone decree that repeals of certain taxes and gives instructions to the temples of Egypt. The Rosetta Stone was found in 1799. The texts was in three scripts: Greek; Hieroglyphics; Demotic.

a clay statuette depicting a seated scribe

Because the Greek text was understood it was used to decipher and translate the previously unknown hieroglyphic and demotic texts. This became the key for understanding ancient Egyptian writings.

Gift of Thoth

LITERATURE Navigate waters unknown: risk shipwreck.

Egyptians also enjoyed many types of popular literature: love poems; witty jokes; myths of the gods; legends of heroes; epics; songs of food and wine; hymns to the gods; clever fables; scandalous tales; wise proverbs; fascinating reports; amusing anecdotes; pithy sayings; wise proverbs.


Love is one thing: knowledge another.

For every joy there is a price to be paid.

By their tongues people bring about their own undoing. Narrow is the path of knowledge. One cannot walk on one foot. Leave him in error who loves his error. The whole body is the working together of all parts. Judge by the cause, not by the effect.

Seth causes Horus: Horus redeems Seth.

Gift of Thoth

Once, long ago in the land of Egypt, where the green waters of the Nile River flow into the blue waters of the Great Sea, there lived a young girl named Rhodopis. She was a slave who had been brought to Egypt by evil pirates from a land far to the north. Her owner was an old man. He was kindly, but very lazy and spent most of his time sleeping under a palm tree. He never saw how his other slaves treated Rhodopis. They insulted her because she had curly hair of gold, deep green eyes and fair pink skin. They forced her to do all the chores and beat her if she was too slow. Homesick and lonely she could only make friends with the animals. Birds ate from her hands. A monkey chattered to her from a palm tree. An old hippopotamus grunted to her from the river. At night, when work was done, she came to the river to dance for the animals. One evening her master awoke and saw Rhodopis dancing so lightly that her tiny feet scarcely touched the ground. Impressed, he bought her some sandals, rose red and gold in colour, so that she might dance the more. This only made the other girls more jealous and they treated Rhodopis worse. When Pharaoh Ahmose came to Memphis they left her behind to work while they went to city to enjoy the music, dancing and wonderful sights.


Sadly Rhodopis washed clothes in the river. She sang a sad little song: Wash the linen! Weed the garden! Grind the grain. Tired of her song the hippopotamus splashed off into the river and wet her sandals. Rhodopis dried them on the river banks. But, before she could retrieve them, a falcon swooped down and carried one sandal away. Now it happened Ahmose, Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt, sat upon on his golden throne looking out over his people. He was bored. Ahmose longed to be out in his chariot riding across the desert sands. He longed to sail upon the River Nile in his royal barque. Suddenly the falcon swooped to drop the sandal in his lap. Amazed, Ahmose realised that this was a sign from the god, Horus. So he made proclamation that all the young women in Upper and Lower Egypt should try on the sandal and whoever it fitted would be his queen. So began the great search. At first the Pharaoh rode his chariot, but none in the fields could be found to fit the sandal. Then the Pharaoh sailed up and down the River Nile in the royal barque, but none who lived by the water could be found to fit the sandal. It seemed to be a hopeless quest. Sadly Ahmose turned back for Memphis. So it was that his ship, with gongs clashing and trumpets blasting and purple sails billowing, neared the home of Rhodopis.


Fearful of the noise, Rhodopis hid in the papyrus, but the other girls went boldly to the river to try the sandal. When the girls saw the sandal they knew that it belonged to Rhodopis, but said nothing and tried to force their fat feet into the sandal. Then Ahmose spotted Rhodopis hiding in the papyrus and begged her to try the sandal. She slipped her tiny foot into the sandal and drew the other from her tunic. Overjoyed the Pharaoh declared: Behold, the daughter of Horus, Queen of Upper and Lower Egypt. But the other girls cried out, She cannot be queen! Does not the law say the Pharaoh must marry one who is a true Egyptian? Ahmose was worried for the law was the law even for a pharaoh. The old man awoke. He said, Indeed, is she not the daughter of Horus? Behold, her hair is as golden as a scroll made from the papyrus of the River Nile! Behold, her green eyes are the colour of the waters of the River Nile! Behold, her skin is as pink as the lotus flower that floats upon the River Nile! Truly, she is of Egypt! So Ahmose took back Rhodopis to his palace. She became his beloved queen. And, the old man went back to sleep under the palm tree and the hippopotamus wallowed in the mud and the monkey chattered in the palm tree and the birds stole bread from the house.