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Papyrus (pronounced /pəˈpaɪrəs/) is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus,[1] a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt.

Papyrus usually grow 2–3 metres (5–9 ft) tall. Papyrus is first known to have been used in ancient Egypt (at least as far back as the First dynasty), but it was also used throughout the Mediterranean region. Ancient Egypt used this plant as a writing material and for boats, mattresses, mats, rope, sandals, and baskets.



Papyrus was first manufactured in Egypt as far back as the third millennium BCE.[2] In the first centuries BCE and CE, papyrus scrolls gained a rival as a writing surface in the form of parchment, which was prepared from animal skins.[3] Sheets of parchment were folded to form quires from which book-form codices were fashioned. Early Christian writers soon adopted the codex form, and in the Græco-Roman world it became common to cut sheets from papyrus rolls to form codices.

Codices were an improvement on the papyrus scroll as the papyrus was not pliable enough to fold without cracking and a long roll, or scroll, was required to create large volume texts. Papyrus had the advantage of being relatively cheap and easy to produce, but it was fragile and susceptible to both moisture and excessive dryness. Unless the papyrus was of good quality, the writing surface was irregular, and the range of media that could be used was also limited.

Papyrus was replaced in Europe by the cheaper locally-produced products parchment and vellum, of significantly higher durability in moist climates, though Henri Pirenne's connection of its disappearance with the Muslim overrunning of Egypt is contended.[4] Its last appearance in the Merovingian chancery is with a document of 692, though it was known in Gaul until the middle of the following century. The latest certain dates for the use of papyrus are 1057 for a papal decree (typically conservative, all papal "bulls" were on papyrus until 1022), under Pope Victor II,[5] and 1087 for an Arabic document. Its use in Egypt continued until it was replaced by more inexpensive paper introduced by Arabs. Papyrus was documented as in use as late as the 12th century in the Byzantine Empire, but there are no surviving examples. Although its uses had transferred to parchment, papyrus therefore just overlapped with the use of paper in Europe, which began in the 11th century.[citation needed]

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