April 5, 2016
I suppose that I was no different from most in assuming that all there was to papyrus was that it was 1) a plant growing in the Nile and 2) that it was from papyrus that the ancient Egyptians made paper (said term also being from papyrus). This book not only provides a great deal of historical information on the use of this remarkable plant, but also goes into the botany and ecology of it, and the useful role that this plant continues to play in the maintenance of water quality in the river basins in which it is found. It turns out that papyrus is vital to a complex ecological web, not only in the overall Nile River system, but in several other important African waterways as well. Ill-considered "improvement" projects (water diversion and the like) threaten a number of the largest papyrus swamps and bode ill for the health of the lacustrine and riverine ecosystems. John Gaudet writes very well, conveying a lifetime's study of this plant in an entertaining style, supplemented by a number of useful maps and diagrams. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in African history, plant ecology, and geography.
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