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Papyrus reeds played a very important part in the life of the Ancient Egyptians. This plant, found along the banks of the Nile River grew easily in the fertile soil, and often reached a height of as much as ten feet.

It had many uses, the most well-known being in the production of a form of paper known as papyrus. It was also used for making rafts, boxes, sandals, baskets and everyday household items.

Once the Ancient Egyptians had developed a form of writing, they needed something to write on. They wrote on tablets of clay and walls, but neither of these was convenient for storage, nor for sending messages.

No-one knows how they came up with the idea for papyrus paper, but they did. Making the paper took time but wasn't difficult.

First, they gathered the reeds from along the banks of the Nile. The stems were needed to make the paper. The thick outer layer of the stem was removed. Next, they cut long thin strips from the stem. The strips were full of sugar, and in order to remove some of the sugar they soaked them in water for about three days.

The strips were then pounded to remove more sugar and laid side-by-side. Each strip slightly overlapped the one next to it. The remaining sugar acted like a glue, and stuck the strips together.

A second set of strips was laid on top of the first. This layer was perpendicular to the first layer. They were then pounded again, to stick them together.

All that remained was to dry them out. Although this sounds like the easiest part, it was probably the most difficult. The water needed to be removed, but the layers needed to be held together. They were probably laid between sheets of cotton, or similar absorbent material. The entire thing was then placed under a heavy weight.

Once the sheets were dried, they were polished with a stone. Then they were ready for use.

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