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A plant once common throughout the Nile Valley, but now rare, that was used for many purposes.

The most common usage of the papyrus plant was to create papyrus sheets. The stem of the papyrus plant was cut into thin strips, which were laid side by side in a perpendicular fashion. A solution of resin from the plant was laid down and a second layer of papyrus was put into place, horizontally. The two layers were then pressed together and allowed to dry. Immense rolls of papyrus could be made by joining the single sheets. One roll, in the British Museum in London, measures 41.15 meters long. The more common size, however, was from 22.9 cm to 25.5 cm by 12.7 cm to 14 cm.


The Papyrus of Ani: a book of the dead, written on a sheet of papyrus.


Papyri were originally made for religious documents and texts, with sheets added to the rolls as needed. The sides of a papyrus are the recto, where the fibres run horizontally, and the verso, where the fibres run vertically. The recto was preferred, but the verso was used for documents as well, allowing separate texts to be included on a single papyrus.

Papyrus rolls were protected by the dry climate of Egypt. One of the oldest known papyri dates to about 500 years before the Early Dynastic Period.