Papyrus

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"Papyrus

Papyrus was the most important writing material in the ancient

world. Our word ""paper"" derives from the word ""papyrus,"" an

Egyptian word that originally meant ""that which belongs to

the house"" (the bureaucracy of ancient Egypt). Papyrus is a

triangular reed that used to grow along the banks of the Nile,

and at an early stage of their history the Egyptians developed a

kind of writing material made out of the pith within the stem of

the papyrus plant. At the same time they developed a script that

ultimately provided the model for the two most common

alphabets in the world, the Roman and the Arabic. . The task

of the papyrologist is not only to decipher, transcribe and edit

what is preserved, but also to reconstruct what is lost between

fragments and reconstruct the whole. Most fragments of

literature derive from rolls of papyrus, which could extend up

to 35 feet in length. Papyrus was the most important writing

material of the ancient world and perhaps ancient Egypt's

most important legacy; alongside it were used other (often

cheaper) materials, like wood and clay (broken pottery sherds

with writing are called ostraca). On these materials were

recorded everything from high literature to the myriad of

Nine of ten published texts are private letters or documents

of every conceivable documents and other communications

of daily life. they reflect the quotidian affairs of government,

commerce, and personal life in much the same way that

modern records do. From the papyri, moreover, have come

abundant new works of religious literature not only for

Judaism and Christianity but also for traditional Greek and

Roman cults, for Manicheism, and for the early history of

Islam. The papyri are also our most important source for

the actual working of law in ancient societies. . In addition to

the papyri, the Michigan collection contains other...
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