Egypt in South Africa


Writing was mostly done on papyrus, which was made from the papyrus reed. The term papyrus can possibly be related to the Egyptian phrase ‘pa-per-ao’ which means ‘that which belonged to the king’. This could indicate to a royal monopoly on the export of papyrus, although this is not certain.
The inner white pith of the thick reed stems, cut into sections, was placed vertically with the sections just touching. On top of this layer would go a similar layer, but placed in a horizontal position. This was first beaten with a mallet and then a heavy weight was placed on top. A waiting period followed because the paper had to be dry before it could be smoothed with a polished stone. Then it was ready to be used.


A section of the Book of the Dead which was written on papyrus. A copy of the 'Weighing of the heart' ritual by Hunefer painted on linen forms part of the Iziko collections. (c) Iziko Photo Archives.