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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Make your own Papyrus and Berry Ink

This year we are studying Ancient Egypt and I'm happy to say everybody is having a lot of fun with this subject.  Our library has a staggering number of activity books that really foster kids' love of learning.  Today we made our own papyrus and berry ink from Carmella Van Vleet book Great Ancient Egypt Projects you can build yourself.  This is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.  Papyrus is what people in Ancient Egypt used for paper.  It's a thin paper-like material made from the papyrus plant that was once abundant along the Nile river valley.  We do not have papyrus growing along the bathtub (even though with the amount of water the kids spray out I wouldn't be surprised to see something growing one day), but I've been to Egypt and I can tell you that this project creates scrolls that are pretty close to the real thing.  And most importantly kids enjoyed making it.

Make Your Own Papyrus

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • aluminum pan or any shallow dish
  • spoon
  • several sheets of unlined paper, any size - ivory or a light yellow paper will make a golden color like real papyrus
  • scissors
  • aluminum foil
  • rolling pin
  1. Mix the flour and the water in your pan.  Stir until there are no more clumps of flour.  Set the pan aside. 
  2. Cut the paper into one-inch-wide strips that are roughly the same length.  Put the strips of paper in the flour and water mixture and let them soak for several minutes.  Move them around so each piece is covered in the mixture.  Make sure the pieces aren't sticking together.  While your paper soaks, spread out a piece of foil on a smooth, hard surface. 
  3. Carefully take the strips out, one at a time.  Use your fingers to gently "squeegee" off the extra mixture.  
    Lay half of the strips on the foil horizontally, making sure each piece slightly overlaps the one next to it.  
    Ours is too soggy... make sure you squeeze off the extra mixture of water and flour from your stripes
    Lay the other half of the strips on top, vertically.  When you are done, you should have two layers that are perpendicular to each other.
  4. Lay a piece of foil on top of your paper strips.  For a few minutes roll the rolling pin over the foil firmly.  

    The flour and water mixture will seep out at the sides. Slowly pull back the top piece of foil and leave it on the bottom piece of foil to dry on a flat surface.  
  5. When your paper is dry, carefully pull it away from the foil.  
    Notice the crisscross pattern?  That's what the papyrus made by ancient Egyptians looked like.  Now make the ink and you are ready to write on your home scroll. 
Berry Ink
The two types of ink most widely used in Egypt were black (made from burning organic materials such as wood or oil, then pulverized before being mixed with water) and red (derived from earth pigment iron oxide).  We made our ink from Costco blackberries.  Blackberries are so tasty, it's almost a pity to use them for ink, but you only need half a cup. 

  • 1/2 cup of blackberries
  • strainer
  • spoon
  • bowl
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Q-tip cotton swab
  • container

  1.  Pour the blackberries into the strainer.  Hold the strainer over the bowl, and use the back of the spoon to force the juice out of the berries, through the strainer.  When all the juice has been removed, you can throw away the pulp.
  2. Add the vinegar and salt to the berry juice and mix.  Your ink is now ready to use! 
  3. Using a Q-tip as a pen try making some hieroglyphs.  

How did you do?

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