Ancient Egypt’s Rhind Mathematical Papyrus Explained in 10 Interesting Facts

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is the greatest source of information about ancient Egyptian Mathematics. To what extent did they understand this complex science?

Mathematics is yet another science that Egyptians understood to great extent and utilized in their daily life. When speaking about Egyptian mathematics, there is one document that draws most of the attention – the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus.

Of course, the famous Moscow Mathematical Papyrus is another famous source of information, older than the Rhind papyrus but also significantly smaller. So, what do you need to know about the Rhind papyrus? Before we get to the facts, we need to take a look at Egyptian Mathematics.

As the ancient Egyptian civilization progressed and formed one of the first societal structures, they found themselves in need of an effective method to keep track of the important events. We can give agriculture as an example. It is no wonder why ancient Egyptians were so advanced in agriculture – they used astronomy and mathematics to predict the flooding season and other important days of the year.

Moreover, how can you control and maintain a stable society without keeping track of the economy. More specifically, they needed a way to calculate and track taxes, trades, and everything related.

With this said, there is no greater source of information regarding ancient Egyptian mathematics than the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. Here is everything you need to know about the ancient document.

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus as seen in the British Museum.

1. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus has been dated to around 1550 BC.

Experts have failed to agree to a more specific date. Some claim that the papyrus is older and could be dated to around 1650 BC but it is generally accepted that 1550 BC is closer to the truth.

2. It is a copy of an older text that has been lost

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus was copied from an older document dated to the reign of Amenemhat III. This means that the original text was written around 1800 BC during the time of the 12th dynasty.

3. It was written by a scribe named Ahmose

As we said already, the author of the original text is unknown and this is why the authorship is given to Ahmose, although many sources claim that the real name is Ahmes.

4. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is divided into three sections/books

Not only is it the largest mathematical papyrus found but it also covers a wide range of problems.

5. There are a total of 91 problems described in the papyrus

 

6. The first book consists of over 40 mathematical problems related to algebra and arithmetics

 

7. Book II revolves around geometry with nearly 20 mathematical problems

 

8. The last 6 problems of Book II refer to the pyramids

 

9. Book III contains additional tables and data not connected to mathematical problems

Book III of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus involves the remaining 31 “problems” that are connected to various parts of life in Ancient Egypt.

For example, there are calculations connected to ancient Egyptian beer. In other words, the Papyrus describes the fractions and amounts of raw material needed for specific productions.

The last written sections refer to the right amounts of food needed to feed certain species of domesticated animals although historians consider the amounts inaccurate.

10. You can see the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus in the British Museum

 

 

Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.
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