How to make your own papyrus

How to make your own papyrus

You will need:

• A large bowl or deep tray (a cat litter tray is just right!) big enough for the papyrus strips to lie flat out.
• A piece of smooth absorbent fabric big enough to cover both sides of an A4 piece of paper (an old tea towel or pillow slip works well).
• Two pieces of flat cardboard a bit bigger than an A4 piece of paper (you can maybe use some from an old cereal packet).
• A couple of old newspapers.
• Either two solid pieces of wood or a flower press if you have one, and some clamps or heavy weights.


1. Soak the papyrus strips in water for at least 3 days.  Some people add a couple of spoonfuls of wallpaper paste at this stage to help the natural glues along.


2. Take the strips out and roll them hard with a rolling pin on a chopping board.


3. Put one side of your fabric on top of your cardboard to make a nice flat smooth surface.  Lay the long papyrus strips in one direction, overlapping them by almost half.  The strips will shrink a bit as they dry, so if you do not overlap, you will end up with a holey sheet of papyrus!  Lay the shorter strips across the top, overlapping again, in the opposite direction.  Give it a good roll with your rolling pin to squeeze out any excess moisture, and dab it dry with some kitchen towel.


This is what happens when you dont overlap properly!


4. Cover with the other layer of cotton, and card to make a papyrus sandwich. Then put sheets of newspaper on both sides to soak up the moisture as it dries out and put it all between your pieces of wood with clamps on the sides (you might need someone to help), or weights on top, or tightly in your flower press.


5. Now you need to be patient and leave it to dry for about a week.  You can change the newspaper after the first day for some new dry paper and have a sneaky peak to see how it is getting on, but you will need to leave it until it is completely dry.

6. Peel the fabric layers off carefully.  You may want to trim any ragged ends from your sheet to make it nice and tidy.  You can smooth the sheet of papyrus with a smooth stone if you wish – only rub gently in the same direction as the strips, or it will make it rougher.

You can now write or draw on your papyrus.  Black paint is good, or felt tips.  Or you can try making your own ink.

Posted by Lindsay Hartley in Resources
How to mummify a kidney

How to mummify a kidney

Step 1:

Here is the kidney some 120 days later. I would like to say that this was the traditional length of time the Egyptians mummified things for, but I think I just forgot about it. 70 days is usually quoted as being how long things were mummified for.

As you can see from the weight on the scales, it is now only 65 grams.  So it has lost 130 grams or 2/3 of its weight through the water loss.

It does not smell at all.  Some things you read suggest that the mummification process must have been extremely smelly, but of course, if it doesn’t go off, it doesn’t smell.


Step 2:

Here is the kidney neatly wrapped in linen and tied up into a neat little parcel.  The salt has been just dusted off.  I decided not to add any perfumed oils at this point as I did not want to reintroduce any moisture.


Step 3:

Wrapped in linen bandages.  It was fun trying to get a nice pattern.  Some of the mummies you see in museums have very complex patterns of wrappings, and you can imagine the mummifiers getting more adventurous and skilled as they gain experience.


Step 4:

Resin.  A friendly local violin shop gave me all their spare bits of old resin, which I meltred down on the stove.  Now this bit really does smell!


Step 5:

When the resin is melted, it looks like caramel.


Step 6:

It does begin to dry out quite quickly, so you need to work fast.


Step 7:

I didn’t work quite fast enough, so my finished product is a bit crispy.  But not bad for an apprentice mummifier on my second organ!


Posted by Lindsay Hartley in Resources
Resources for Auditories 2

Resources for Auditories 2

Since the power went down all over Cairo (OK, so it maybe wasn’t that unusual!) just before the first broadcast of the trumpets being played, you may like to listen to this by candle light if your health and safety and blinds permit.

Tutankhamun’s trumpets

Tutankhamun’s trumpets are a pair of trumpets found in the burial chamber of Tutankhamun, king of Egypt. The trumpets, one of sterling silver and one of bronze are considered to be the oldest operational trumpets in the world, and the only known surviving examples from ancient Egypt. The trumpets were found in 1922 by Howard Carter. Both of them were sounded for the first time in over 3,000 years to a live audience of an estimated 150 million listeners through a BBC broadcast aired on April 16, 1939. The trumpets were played by a Bandsman, James Tappern of Prince Albert’s Own 11th Royal Hussars regiment. The recording was recently featured, and can be heard on the BBC Radio program series “Ghost Music.”

Claims of Magical Powers

There have been some claims made by Zahi Hawass, former Minister of State for Antiquities Affair, and Egyptologist Hala Hassan, curator of the Tutankhamun collection at the Egyptian Museum, that the two trumpets contain “magical powers” and have the apparent ability to summon war. The evening they were first played in 1939, the power cut out at the Cairo museum five minutes before the scheduled air, and the BBC were forced to record the sounding of the trumpets by candle light. Five months after the radio broadcast, Britain entered World War II and the war in Europe began. The trumpets were again said to have been played before the 1967 Six-Day War, before the 1990 Gulf war, and most recently, the bronze trumpet was played one week before the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 by a Cairo museum staff member to a Japanese delegation. This same bronze trumpet was subsequently stolen from the Cairo museum during the Egyptian looting and riots of 2011, yet was mysteriously returned to the museum some weeks later.

Posted by Lindsay Hartley in Resources
Resources for Auditories 1

Resources for Auditories 1

Ancient Egyptian themed projects are often of necessity either very visual or craft based.  Students who have a primarily auditory way of processing information can easily be left out.

I have found a few nice auditory resources over the years, and this Lord’s Prayer in ancient languages sounds suitably atmospheric.  You can ask participants to close their eyes and listen to hear if there are any sounds we don’t have in our language and then try to reproduce them afterwards.  Coptic is probably the last remnant we have of Ancient/Middle Egyptian since the language survived in Egypt, but using the Greek alphabet instead of hieroglyphs. Being fluent in Coptic was amongst the things that helped Jean-François Champollion to decipher hieroglyphic writing.  However, since the Ancient Egyptian language evolved over at least 3,500 years and had different accents up and down the Nile, there is no guarantee modern Coptic sounds anything like Ancient Egyptian at any given period!  But until time travel is invented, it is our best approximation.


Scroll to 1.43 minutes to get to Coptic.

There is a little bit more about Champollion here.

and a very readable book about him here.

Posted by Lindsay Hartley in Resources
How to make deliciously messy Ancient Egyptian ink

How to make deliciously messy Ancient Egyptian ink

(but no worse than poster paint in the classroom)


  • Soot (if you or a friend has an open fire, this is very easy, otherwise, I can send you a small bag in the post for £2.50 plus P&P)
  • Egg yolk (you can see how this is going to get very messy very quickly)
  • Washing up liquid
  • Mustard (optional)
  • A few drops olive oil


  • Mortar and pestle
  • Some papyrus to write on
  • Fine paintbrushes
  • Little pots for ink
  • Small jugs/pots of water


Scoop a couple of tablespoons full of soot into your mortar and pestle.  You can invite the children to smell it to see if they can identify what it is before you get going.  Since it is not so common for people to have open fires, a lot of them will be hard pressed to know what it is.

Grind the soot to as fine a powder as you can with the mortar and pestle.  Having a really fine powder is the key to the best ink.  If it is gritty you do not get such a rich even pigment.  The children can all have a go.  Be prepared to get soot everywhere.

Grinding the soot

Grinding the soot

Theatrically crack and separate your egg (or invite one of the children to if this looks a safe option), and plop the egg yolk into the soot.  It does look spectacular at this point!

Add the egg

Add the egg










I have used a spoonful of made up Dijon mustard in this batch, to see if it helps it to emulsify (like in mayonnaise – but we aren’t really mixing oil and other liquids here).  I like to think this has helped, but this is very much optional, and you may have people with allergies so miss this out if you like.

A few drops of washing up liquid to help it mix. (This was actually in a recipe for tattoo ink in prison, but I dare say scribes put all sorts into their own mixtures!)

Add the washing up liquid

Add the washing up liquid









A few drops of olive oil.  I tried this to try to make the final ink on the page have a nice glossy finish, and it does seem to do the trick.

Mix it all together with a spoon.  It feels as though it will never pull together at first – the soot really resists mixing in.  Everyone can have a stir to see what it feels like.  Finally it will pull together in a gloopy smooth glossy blob in the bottom.  At the moment it will be too thick to write with.

A glossy mixture

A glossy mixture










You can put about a teaspoon full into separate pots and add a little water from a jug to get a nice writing consistency – just do a bit at a time, and test it with your brush until you can write a nice smooth line.

Children can write their names in hieroglyphs (see separate sheet on writing) or copy some hieroglyphs or copy or draw an ancient Egyptian style picture or god/goddess.  It is a good idea to pencil it in first as once the ink is on, that is it, there is no rubbing it out.

Writing with the ink

Writing with the ink









The act of writing on the papyrus is quite special and allows you to imagine being a scribe, and think about the fluidity of the hieroglyphs.

If you look at the old scribes’ palettes, there are often cakes of dried ink in them.  I am testing some blobs of the ink to dry to see if they will rehydrate with water like childrens’ paint palettes.  I’ll keep you posted!

Meritaten’s palette

Meritaten’s palette












Happy ink making!


Posted by Lindsay Hartley in Resources