Egyptian Mathematics


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An ancient Egyptian relief showing hieroglyphs for numbers.

Egypt is one of the most fascinating places on our planet because of the great civilisation which developed there more than 3000 years before the birth of Christ. In fact by that time they had already developed their hieroglyphic system of writing and this marks the beginning of the Old Kingdom during which the most famous pyramids were built - the Great Pyramid in Giza was built around 2650 BC.

Egyptians had their own numerals which can still be found on temples, stone monuments and decorative objects around the world. They give us very little knowledge however, about mathematical calculations that they might have done. Once they started using the papyrus, they also developed a kind of pen made out of reed. This prompted the development of hieratic writing and numerals.

There must have been huge number of these papyri which were made and circulated around the country, as we have proofs that they had schools and that scribes were reasonably numerous. We unfortunately, only have two papyri which survived and deal with mathematics, and so almost all of our knowledge of Egyptian mathematics is based on these two surviving documents.

Rhynd and Moscow Papyri

Unit Fractions and the Eye of Horus

Egyptian Gods and Mathematics




Topics on Egyptian mathematics

Egyptian gods and mathematics

Egyptian numerals

Rhynd and Moscow Papiri

Unit Fractions

Eye of Horus Fractions

Dyadic multiplication

An Egyptian scribe from the Fourth Dynasty. The word scribe is applied to clerks, copyists and, more importantly to the class of bureaucratic officials on whom the whole Egyptian system was based. They were an elite who passed their profession from father to son. Scribes were very powerful, or so we think now, as the popularity of the scribe statues overtakes popularity of any other statues apart from god forms.

To learn about gods which are related to mathematics, or learning, click here.






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