Writing material of ancient times and also the plant from which it was

derived , Cyprus papyrus (family Cyperaceae), also called paper plant. The

grass like aquatic, cultivated in the Nile Delta region in Egypt, was

collected for its stem, whose central pith was cut into thin strips, pressed

together, and dried to form a smooth, thin writing surface.

The plant, with woody, bluntly triangular stems, grows up to 4.6 meters

(about 15 feet) high in quietly flowing water up to 90 centimeters (3 feet)

deep. It is now often used as a pool ornamental in warm areas or in

conservatories. The dwarf papyrus (C. isocladus, given as C. papyrus

'Nanus'), up to 60 cm tall, is sometimes potted and grown indoors.



  The care, reading, and interpretation of ancient documents written on

papyrus, which of prime importance in Egyptian, Near Eastern, and Classical


Most papyrus documents have been found in Egypt, where the papyrus plant was

cultivated for the manufacture of writing material, and the dry climate

favored preservation. Papyrus documents have been found dating from as

early as c. 2600 BC (a blank roll of papyrus, c. 3000 BC, was excavated in a

1st dynasty tomb) and there are important documents from the Hyksos period

to the end of the new Kingdom (1674-1085 BC)_e.g., the Rhind (mathematical)

Papyrus, the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, and the Turin Papyrus of kings, as

well as literary compositions but the majority of them date from Hellenistic

and Roman times (4th century BC-6th AD) and are written either in Egyptian

demotic script, Greek, or Latin. Since they began to be collected in the

late 18th and early 19th centuries, they have become an important source of

information about the ancient Mediterranean world and an invaluable aid to

the study of Classical literature and ancient religions. More than 2,500

papyrus copies of Greek and Roman literary works have been discovered, many

of them previously  unknown and some known only from references in ancient

authors. One of the most spectacular of these discoveries was a manuscript of

Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, found by an American missionary in Egypt

in 1890 . New biblical manuscripts have also come to light, and the papyrus

scrolls found in the Dead Sea area since the late 1940s have been an

outstanding aid to the study of ancient Judaism and early Christianity.