Dinah Starkey reports on historical materials for the study of Ancient Egypt
There's something about Ancient Egypt, with its magic and mystery, its tomb robbers and treasure. As soon as the topic begins, books appear, brought in from home to show and share. And not just books - inflatable mummies and replica scarabs, model pyramids and cardboard death masks as well, courtesy of friends and family caught up in the enthusiasm.
The papyrus packs produced by Pyramid Crafts fit into this category. The company has been supplying museum shops for some time and has now branched out into supplying resource packs aimed at schools (prices vary, depending on quantity ordered, and which elements of the pack are selected). They contain sheets of real papyrus, together with suggestions for activities, and the aim is to give children practical hands-on experience of what papyrus actually feels like and how it was used.
The first thing to say is that it's surprisingly tough. It's much stronger than paper and real effort is needed to tear or crease it. It takes colour beautifully, working equally well as a ground for pencil, ink or felt tips.
It can even be put through a photocopier or printer. Working with the appealing medium of papyrus has considerable educational value, not least because it helps children to appreciate its durability. We have so much evidence about life in Pharaonic times simply because papyrus is so long-lasting.
The company has taken a pick-and-mix approach, offering schools the opportunity to make their own class pack from a range of products. Besides the blank sheets of papyrus there is a Colour Your Own Papyrus pack and one on the hieroglyphic alphabet.
Some care is needed in making the selection. The blank papyrus is well worth having and so is the hieroglyphic alphabet pack, which includes an enticing hand-coloured alphabet and a worksheet on writing in hieroglyphics. But Colour Your Own Papyrus has rather less educational value. As every teacher knows, while colouring and word searches will keep children happily occupied for hours, they don't learn much from it.
The papyrus is reasonably priced and, educationally speaking, good value for money. As for the colour-in sheets, with a bit of luck they will turn up in the classroom anyway, brought in from home by a keen pupil and nicely coloured in.
* Pyramid Crafts Stand AZ-S35 www.pyramidcrafts.com