In the Making of Paper, Egyptians Were Copycats
THE EGYPTIANS are said to have begun papermaking in the third millennium B.C.E. They peeled the rinds from the stems of a water plant called papyrus. The pithy cores that remained were cut into broad but thin strips and laid out vertically, overlapping slightly. A thin paste was applied, and another layer of papyrus strips laid down on top of the first layer but with the strips running horizontally. The two layers were then bonded together by being beaten with a mallet. After drying in the sun and some polishing, the sheets were ready for use in writing. Of all the early writing materials, papyrus most closely resembled paper.
In the making of paper, however, the Egyptians were latecomers—late by many thousands of years! Number one in papermaking are the paper wasps. The largest are the hornets Vespa crabro in Europe and Vespa maculata in North America. The paper nest begins small, the work of a single female; it ends up an imposing paper ball one to two feet in diameter, housing a work force of thousands. The work begins with this lone female, a queen. After selecting a building site, usually in a tree, she scrapes off small particles of old weathered wood and mixes them with her saliva to form a pulp.
With this paper pulp, she forms a very small comb and attaches it to a branch or other support. The pulp quickly hardens. She surrounds the comb with a protective shell consisting of several layers of paper, the layers separated from one another by dead-air spaces for insulation. This covering does not touch the comb, but for support intertwines itself around the branches and twigs just above it. The only opening in this hollow paper ball is a hole at the bottom—the doorway in and out of the nest. The few hexagonal cells of the comb face downward, and in each one she lays an egg.
In a few days the eggs hatch. The queen feeds the larvae—they beg for food by making scratching noises on the cell walls. In three weeks the larvae enclose themselves in the cell chamber by spinning a membrane of silk over its opening. Three more weeks in this pupa stage and completed hornets gnaw their way through the membrane. They are ready to go to work, and the queen is ready to retire from papermaking and concentrate on egg laying.
That means paper production must go into high gear! More cells to accommodate the eggs. The original comb increases in circumference as more cells are added around its edges. Columnar supports are dropped down from it to hang a new and bigger comb below it. More combs and bigger combs are added, until there may be eight or more. Men build from the bottom floor up; hornets build from the top floor down. Man’s floors sit on the ones below it; hornets’ floors hang from the ones above it. To make room for this interior expansion, inner walls are torn down as outer ones are added. As the family increases, the nest expands like an inflating balloon.
Hornets can sometimes be seen adding these outer layers to the covering. They bring small pellets of thoroughly chewed paper pulp, and as they walk backward, they stretch out these pellets into strips, adding strip after strip. The pattern of these joined strips may be seen on the finished covering. The hornet’s saliva in the paper pulp serves as a glue.
Interestingly—and amazingly—the hornet can govern the position of the fibers in its paper. When made into sheets for wall layers, the fibers form an irregular pattern, crisscrossing one another to give added strength—similar to what the Egyptians did with their strips of papyrus. But when the paper is for making the stems, or columns, that suspend the first comb to a branch or attach additional combs on the ones above, all the wood fibers are arranged in a parallel pattern. This gives greatly increased strength to hold the heavier structures in the nest. One authority comments on this: “Considerable load-bearing strength is achieved by aligning all wood fibers longitudinally—just as the tendons of muscles derive their immense toughness from the fact that all the fibers of connective tissue are aligned parallel to each other in the direction of stress.”
Incidentally, does this resemblance of hornet columns and human tendons prove an evolutionary connection? Evolutionists usually argue that resemblance proves relationship. Of course, when resemblance does not fit, they arbitrarily and conveniently dismiss it as accidental convergence. Just as humans use similar principles in widely divergent inventions, so the Creator of heaven and earth has done, and that long before man did. In actuality, by God-given instinct, the hornets consider the varying strength requirements of the different structures and arrange the wood fibers in the pulp accordingly.
It is also by instinctive wisdom that the hornets maintain a constant temperature in their nest of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30° C.). Maintaining a constant temperature is greatly facilitated by the many layers of paper used in the nest covering, with dead-air spaces between the layers—like the thermal windows man makes. “This outside wall,” one authority notes, “can be as effective an insulator against heat and cold as a 16-inch brick wall.”
Even so, this is not always enough. When the temperature drops below 86 degrees Fahrenheit, a special group of worker hornets rapidly work their flight muscles with wings uncoupled, like an automobile with engine running but in neutral. This muscular activity generates heat. If the nest gets too hot, the hornets bring in water to moisten the cells, and then they fan their wings to evaporate the water and thus cool the nest—as a car radiator cools the engine.
Now please, do not tell us that all this wisdom just happened to evolve by chance, without any proof that it did or how it could. These amazing papermakers are near-robots, created with this wisdom programmed into them: “They are instinctively wise.”—Proverbs 30:24.
And when it came to making paper, they preceded the Egyptians by thousands of years!