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 writing
surfaces that were in use in the ancient world, such as ostraca
(pot shards), lead, wax and wooden tablets, parchment, and
rarely, paper. The papyri are mainly in Greek, but with a range
similar to that of Michigan.Condition of the Materials But it
is of course much older than most paper manuscripts, and
most papyri are torn on several, if not all, sides.

They usually emerge dirty, crumpled, and twisted, unless
they have been preserved in a box or jar (as occasionally
happens). Ostraca are often broken, and sometimes have
significant salt in the fabric if they have lain in land reached
by the Nile\'s waters. Papyrus, also paper reed, common name
for a plant of the sedge family. The plant grows about 1 to 3 m
(about 3 to 10 ft) The leaves are long and sharp-keeled, and
the upright flowering stems are naked, soft, and triangular in shape.
The papyrus of the Egyptians was made of slices of the cellular
pith laid lengthwise, with other layers laid crosswise on it.
whole was then moistened with water, pressed and dried, and
rubbed smooth with ivory or a smooth shell. The Egyptians
wrote on papyrus in regular columns.