The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars
Pegasus Books, 9781605985664, 272pp.
Publication Date: June 15, 2014
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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 21st 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 6th 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. In an ironic twist, Egypt is faced with enormous pollution loads that forces them to import food supplies, and yet papyrus is one of the most effective and efficient natural pollution filters known to man. Papyrus was the key in stemming the devastation to the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River from raging peat fires (that last for years), heavy metal pollution in the Zambezi River Copperbelt and the papyrus laden shores of Lake Victoria—which provides water to more than 30 million people—will be crucial as the global drying of the climate continues. 8 page insert, illustrations throughout.
About the Author
Praise For Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars…
— Alexander McCall Smith, bestselling author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
A versatile plant that has played a huge ecological and economic role, papyrus is brought into focus by John Gaudet in this outstanding book – a fascinating read, an enlightening story.
— Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis
A fascinating account of the plant that provided the world
with paper for the first four thousand years of its history. I learned a lot
from this book, not only about papyrus but also about how wetlands can serve as
filters for waste-water and how marshes and tropical swamps can help conserve
valuable water. Lively and well
— Jean-Daniel Stanley, Senior Scientist Emeritus, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
The hardy reed that stood at the center of ancient Egyptian civilization can foster sustainable growth in the 21st century, asserts ecologist Gaudet...The challenges are daunting, but Gaudet’s detailed, undogmatic account of multiple attempts to counter overdevelopment with better practices inspires cautious optimism.
One of the ways that papyrus changed the world was by providing the model, both structural and spatial, for the first temple complexes. The history of western architecture begins with the papyrus plant. John Gaudet tells a fascinating tale of the transmutation of vegetable into mineral, of graceful stems and umbels into the first stone columns, and of gladed swamps into sacred precincts. Architects and architectural historians should read this book and learn more about the beautiful and useful plant that inspired the earliest works of monumental architecture.
— Colin Davies, Former Editor of the Architects’ Journal and Professor of Architectural Theory at London Metropolitan University