How to Unroll a Papyrus – Video Release From the ROM

Unrolling a papyrus (without destroying it) is an expensive and complicated process. How do you do it without causing the whole thing to crumble into unintelligable flakes? Well, last year the Royal Ontario Museum unrolled a Book of the Dead that had long been in their collection, which dated back to ca. 320 BC, the early Ptolemaic period. And they also made a cool video about how it was done.

A group at the ROM called, Friends of Egypt, financed the project. A language expert and specialized conservators were brought in. The book was mounted, and, at the beginning of this year, put on public display.

The book was purchased by the museums founder Charles Trick Currelly about 100 years back. Its from the Luxor (Thebes) area and was buried with a man named Amenemhat.

One fragment of the book was put on display at the museum. But over the past 100 years the museum forgot that this was part of a larger papyrus that was in storage. It wasnt until 2006 when Book of the Dead expert, Dr. Irmtraut Munro, of the University of Bonn, visited the museum and made the connection.

The fully unravelled papyrus is about six meters long and its one of the best preserved books, from its time-period, that we have. This youtube video, posted by the ROM a year ago, shows Assistant Curator Roberta Shaw discussing the papyrus and how the unrolling process worked.

The Book of the Dead exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) will continue running until the 18th October, so there is still time to learn see some of these remarkable ancient texts yourself.