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Ancient Egypt
Who Invented Paper?



Who Invented Paper?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.57

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    grass-like, pith, tight-lipped, well-guarded, jittery, papermaking, dating, breakthrough, dynasty, crosswise, presented, response, widely, papyrus, writing, spelled
     content words:    Western Han, Tsai Lun, Cai Lun, Eastern Han


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Who Invented Paper?
By Vickie Chao
  

1     Imagine you were in the final round of a quiz show. You were one question away from winning the grand prize. You were very nervous because you were in this win-all-or-lose-all situation. When the host asked you if you were ready for your final question, you forced a jittery smile and gave a quick nod. The host glanced at his cue card and read aloud, "Who invented paper?" Right away, two possible answers raced through your mind, and one predicament emerged. You simply couldn't decide if it was the ancient Chinese or the ancient Egyptians that invented paper. While you were struggling for an answer, the clock was winding down; you only had ten more seconds to formulate a response. What would it be?
 
2     The word "paper" was derived from an ancient Egyptian word "papyrus." Papyrus is a grass-like aquatic plant that thrives along the riverbanks of the Nile in Egypt. The plant can grow up to 20 feet tall. Its stems are upright and triangular-shaped. Its leaves are long. And its flowers bloom in clusters at the tip of each stem. Dating as far back as 5,000 years, the ancient Egyptians began to use papyrus in several different ways. Among the various applications, one -- as a writing material -- stood out and later helped coin the word "paper."
 
3     Making papyrus was both time-consuming and expensive. To start, the ancient Egyptians needed to peel away the plant's green outer layer of skin and slice the inner pith into fine strips. Once that was done, they laid the moistened strips lengthwise and crosswise to form a square sheet. They sandwiched the square sheet between linens and hammered the "sandwich" with a heavy stone or a mallet. The pounding helped break down the fibers and make them stick together. When the square sheet dried, it was polished with a flat stone to make it smooth and was joined together with other square sheets to form a scroll.

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