This morning I went to GR Detectives Day at the GR Public Library, which included six speakers delving into specific and unusual aspects of GR architecture and history. Tom Dilley, a very popular local historian, talked specifically of Egyptian Revival Art in GR's Oak Hill Cemetery. In his discussion, Dilley repeatedly referenced symbols and icons of Papyrus, and every time he said it, I flinched.
For a graphic designer, "Papyrus" is the dirtiest of all the dirty words. It's one step past "Clip Art". But I knew Dilley wasn't saying it to torture me, clearly there was another form of Papyrus out there....Ancient Egypt was perhaps the first country to recognize national plants. These were the Lotus (water lily) and Papyrus, which symbolized Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively.
The lotus and papyrus plants both symbolized the waters of Nun, from which the Egyptians believed life began. The papyrus, which grew in thickets along the Nile, became the symbol of fertility and life itself. As such, fresh papyrus stalks became a part of the offerings that the deceased took to the grave, and stylized papyrus stalks, with their sweeping flower umbels, were commonly used in architecture design.