Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars

Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars

by John Gaudet


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At the center of the most vital human-plant relationship in history, Papyrus evokes the mysteries of the ancient world while holding the key to the world’s wetlands and atmospheric stability.

From ancient Pharaohs to twenty-first century water wars, papyrus is a unique plant that is still one of the fastest growing plant species on earth. It produces its own “soil”—a peaty, matrix that floats on water—and its stems inspired the fluted columns of the ancient Greeks. In ancient Egypt, the papyrus bounty from the Nile delta provided not just paper for record keeping—instrumental to the development of civilization—but food, fuel and boats.

Disastrous weather in the sixth century caused famines and plagues that almost wiped out civilization in the west, but it was papyrus paper in scrolls and codices that kept the record of our early days and allowed the thread of history to remain unbroken. The sworn enemy of oblivion and the guardian of our immortality, it came to our rescue then and will again.

Today, it is not just a curious relic of our ancient past, but a rescuing force for modern ecological and societal blight.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781605988283
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 05/15/2015
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

A Fulbright Scholar to both India and Malaya,John Gaudetis a writer and practicing ecologist. His early research on papyrus, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, took him to Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. A trained ecologist with a PhD from University of California at Berkeley, he is the author ofPapyrus: The Plant that Changed the World, and his writing has appeared inScience,Nature,Ecology, theWashington Post, Salonand theHuffington Post. Helives in McLean, Virgina.

Table of Contents

Prologue Ancient Egypt and Papyrus, the Eternal Marriage xiii

Part I Ancient Heritage 1

1 First Encounter 3

2 Nature's Bounty 10

3 Papyrus Boats, the Pride of Ancient Egypt 27

4 Rope, the Workhorse of Ancient Egypt 38

5 Papyrus Paper, in All the Offices of the World 44

Part II When Swamps Are. More than Just Wet Places 57

6 The Floating World 59

7 The Other Marsh Men, an African Perspective 75

8 Sacred Swamps and Temples of Immortality 80

9 The Field of Reeds as a Way of Life 95

10 Swamps Are the Future 101

11 Sarah Starts a. War 113

12 The Revenge of the, Sacred, Sedge 125

Part III Papyrus Swamps, the Last Frontier 137

13 The Congo, Economic Miracle or Pit of Despair 139

14 A Tragic Irony 148

15 The Battle for Lake Victoria 157

16 War Along the Nile 169

17 It Takes an Army to Save the Sudd 179

18 Blood Roses, Papyrus, and the Mew Scramble for Africa 190

19 The Zambezi, the Victorians, and Papyrus 212

20 An Unwanted Legacy 218

21 The Okavango, Miracle of the Kalahari 230

22 Papyrus Blooms Again in the Holy Land 240

23 The Rift Valley, a Safe Haven for Birds 251

24 The Egyptian Solution 258

25 2050, The New Delta 266

26 Conclusion 268

Further Reading 273

Acknowledgments 285

Endnotes 287

Index 295

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Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A lively, intelligent story – All about papyrus an ancient plant and the people who depended on it in ancient Egypt. Very helpful still to have papyrus swamps acting as sewage filters in Africa where it really helps clean up dirty water.
The BeasKnees More than 1 year ago
Wonderful reading – Early Egyptians were living in a watery, floating world where the boats, houses and temples were made from the stems of the reed, papyrus. Papyrus rope was used to move monuments and later build pyramids and craft items around the house. Then I found out that the same plant is still hard at work saving Africa from an environmental nightmare. A must read for anyone who cares about the world today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“Gaudet’s book is a comprehensive tour de force and a page turner!  It is no mean achievement to present such a mine of information in an accessible manner!  The humorous moments helped clearly showing his credentials as a botanist and not a zoologist.  On every page there was something new and interesting to learn. One of my aunts lives in Africa. Until the 1980s she had papyrus growing at the bottom of her garden bordering Lake Victoria. Lung fish (mamba) were plentiful but revered by many living around the lake. Tilapia was also plentiful and one could just stand on shore and see them large enough for eating!  Crested cranes used to nest between clumps of papyrus.  In the 1990s, the papyrus had disappeared and so had the lung fish and tilapia.  Water hyacinth, the scourge of the fisherman, had taken over and fishermen had to go far afield overnight in search of Nile perch for the Kampala and Jinja markets.  All this supports your conclusions about the ecological value of papyrus.  Thanks for writing this book.  By the way it would make a great gift for anyone interested in Nature, Egypt, Africa or birds.”
Katheka More than 1 year ago
Here is a concise and very readable history of papyrus, a swamp plant used for paper in ancient Egypt, yet also the sustainable solution to the water pollution crisis looming in Africa. A highly informative book and an insight into the use of the swamps as filters. The ideal book for any friend of nature. (Dr. Richard Ford, Professor of History and International Development, Clark University)
MakuluBoss More than 1 year ago
Highly informative and very readable. This book has a great deal in it about Egypt and the use of the swamps as filters in Africa. Would make a great present for Christmas to any friend of nature." "Well worth getting this book. Lots in it about the ancient plant, paper and boats, but also about the modern swamps, which often serve in Africa as filters of sewage.
Mombasaphil More than 1 year ago
This is the same plant used for paper in ancient Egypt. It is now earmarked to filter swamps in Africa. It is very informative and a great read for anyone interested in Egypt, history or nature. 5..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who better to write a book on a fascinating and threatened natural resource in Africa than John Gaudet? His wealth of experience as an environmental officer for Africa at USAID and his dual command of the biological and social sides of conservation make his authority second to none.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Plant the Changed the World reflects this botanist's lifetime fascination with a plant that is intimately connected to our past and to the future of Africa. Full of surprises, it has a great deal in it about Egypt and traces the use of the papyrus plant through history, while also taking readers on a journey to show them how papyrus swamps have been and continue to be an integral part of Africa's environment. The modern use of the swamps as filters may help prevent greater pollution of Africa's great inland waters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many people have eagerly awaited this book and I'm pleased to report that it does not disappoint; this is the definitive, intriguing account of one of the world's most fascinating plants, consummately written by its most distinguished expert, Dr John Gaudet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about the ancient water world of Egypt and the way people got along using local sustainable resources for thousands of years. Gaudet uses the antique world as a springboard to dramatize the use of wetlands as filter swamps to combat pollution in modern times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your book is beautifully written for the purpose intended.  As I read it, I thought on “Silent Spring”, and who knows, it may come to be appreciated in the  same way.  It is a really good read;  simple and elegantly fashioned and sructured.  Reading it was as easy as boating down the Nile because it was in no way pedantic.  Rather, It was delightfully informative.  The book persuaded me to curl up in my green “comfy” chair, and enjoy it for some three days.
RalphH1 More than 1 year ago
The author, John Gaudet, can flat-out write, and his passion for the subject comes through in every line. While most people have't spent a lot of time worrying about the future of papyrus, the author has, and he writes about the past and future engagingly. The book is leavened with anecdotes which I enjoyed, and which made reading it fun. I hope it gets the attention it deserves, because a world with healthy papyrus systems will be a healthier and environmentally sounder one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"A masterpiece in economic and historical botany..." Nature magazine called it a "swirling anthropological and environmental narrative!" and Harvard University's Belfer Center voted it the Innovation Book of the Week...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
John Gaudet has written an ambitious, lively book that sets the tale of Papyrus within the context of ancient and modern cultures, ecology and colonial exploration in Africa. Using original and secondary sources and illustrations, he brings his material to life with personal anecdotes and experiences from his decades living in East Africa. Entertaining and educational!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Papyrus, the Plant that Changed the World is a great learning experience for those interested in the future of Africa and the world. Modern and Classic architecture fashioned after papyrus plants and simple reed huts? Is it possible? Gaudet makes a case for just that in a book loaded with ideas. He also deals with birdlife in danger. One of the major flyways for millions of birds is in the Rift Valley. And the Sudd, the last major natural freshwater fisheries in the world is a major world habitat that is threatened. Luckily, Gaudet is here to help.