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# Mathematics in Ancient Egypt

Philippe Cara

Department of Mathematics
http://www.vub.ac.be/DWIS

## VUB, 7th September 2001

1
The use of Mathematics in Ancient
Egypt

## • Partitioning of fertile grounds

1
The use of Mathematics in Ancient
Egypt

## • Partitioning of fertile grounds

• Construction of pyramids
1
The use of Mathematics in Ancient
Egypt

## • Partitioning of fertile grounds

• Construction of pyramids

1
The use of Mathematics in Ancient
Egypt

## • Partitioning of fertile grounds

• Construction of pyramids

• Calendar. . .
2
Sources

2
Sources

2
Sources

2
Sources

2
Sources

3
Rhind papyrus
4

• 1650 BC

## • Tables with fractions

• Ahmes

• Leather Roll
5
6
Back of Rhind papyrus

## 2/5 = 1/3 + 1/15

2/7 = 1/4 + 1/28
2/9 = 1/6 + 1/18
2/11 = 1/6 + 1/66
2/13 = 1/8 + 1/52 + 1/104
2/15 = 1/10 + 1/30
..
2/101 = 1/101 + 1/202 + 1/303 + 1/606
7
Theorem

fractions.
7
Theorem

## Every fraction can be written as a sum of unit

fractions.
Given p/q with p < q, we subtract the largest unit
fraction 1/n. Repeat till a unit fraction is left. . .
7
Theorem

## Every fraction can be written as a sum of unit

fractions.
Given p/q with p < q, we subtract the largest unit
fraction 1/n. Repeat till a unit fraction is left. . .
p 1 np − q
− =
q n nq
7
Theorem

## Every fraction can be written as a sum of unit

fractions.
Given p/q with p < q, we subtract the largest unit
fraction 1/n. Repeat till a unit fraction is left. . .
p 1 np − q
− =
q n nq
Suppose np − q > p then np − p > q or (n − 1)p > q
1 1 p
< 6
n n−1 q
8
Remark

## There are many ways to write a fraction as sum of

unit fractions.

1 1 1
= +
n n + 1 n(n + 1)
9
Multiplication 1

7 × 22 =?
9
Multiplication 1

7 × 22 =?

1 7
✔ 2 14
✔ 4 28
8 56
✔ 16 112
22 154
10
Division

154 ÷ 7 =?
10
Division

154 ÷ 7 =?

1 7
2 14 ✔
4 28 ✔
8 56
16 112 ✔
22 154
11
Multiplication 2

5 + 7/8 × 12 + 2/3 =?
11
Multiplication 2

5 + 7/8 × 12 + 2/3 =?

✔ 1 12+2/3
2 25+1/3
✔ 4 50+2/3
✔ 1/2 6+1/3
✔ 1/4 3+1/6
✔ 1/8 1+1/2+1/12
5+7/8 99+1/2+1/4
12
Writing of numbers

• Decimal

## 1 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000

    µ  


  

= 275
 
   

µµµµµ     = 152023
12
Writing of numbers

• Decimal

## 1 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000

    µ  


  

= 275
 
   

µµµµµ     = 152023
No zero symbol needed!!
13
Moscow papyrus

• 1850 BC

• Golenischev

• 25 problems

14
Other papyri

## • Harris papyrus (1167 BC)

15
Mathematics used for building pyramids
=
GEOMETRY
16
Weights and measures

• 1 cubit = 52.3 cm

17
Egyptian ruler

## The cubit of King Amenhotep I (1559 – 1539 BC)

18
Other units for distances
• 1 palm = 1/7 of a cubit

## • 1 remen = half the length of the diagonal

√ of a
square with side one cubit. That is 22 cubit.
Useful when measuring land areas.

• 1 double remen = 2 cubit.

## • 1 aura = 1 setat = area of square with side 100

cubits, hence 10000 square cubits.
19
Weights or volumes

## • 1 hinu = 1/10 of a hekat

• 1 ro = 1/320 of a hekat

20
Beer and Pesu

## • If one hekat of grain was used to make 5 des of

beer, it was said to have a pesu of 5.
20
Beer and Pesu

## • If one hekat of grain was used to make 5 des of

beer, it was said to have a pesu of 5.

21
Rhind problem 76

## If you want to trade 1000 des of beer of pesu

10 for beer of pesu 20, how many des do you
get?
22
Sekhed of a pyramid

## is the inclination of any one of the four triangular

faces to the horizontal plane of its base.

h h

a/2

a
sekhed =
2h
In fact the sekhed is the cotangent of the slope α.
23
Rhind problem 57

## The sekhed of a pyramid is 5 palms and 1

finger and the side is 140 cubit. What is the
height?
24
Sekheds of some well-known pyramids

Name Sekhed
Chephren, Ouserkaf 3/4 cubit
Neferirka-Re, Teti, Pepi 21 fingers
Cheops, Snofru 11/14 cubit
Neouser-Re 22 fingers
Sesostris 6/7 cubit
Amenemhat III 9/14 cubit
25
26
Pythagoras’ theorem

## • The sum of the squares of the right angle

sides of a rectangular triangle is the square of
the remaining side.
c
b

a2 + b2 = c2 a
26
Pythagoras’ theorem

## • The sum of the squares of the right angle

sides of a rectangular triangle is the square of
the remaining side.
c
b

a2 + b2 = c2 a

## • If a triangle fulfills the above then it is rect-

angular.
27
Construction of right angles 1

p k0 p

k0 p k0 p
28
Property of a rectangle

## • The diagonals of a rectangle meet eachother

halfway.
28
Property of a rectangle

halfway.

## • If a quadrilateral fulfills the above then it is a

rectangle.
29
Construction of right angles 2
a

d
m a d

b m
c
b

R p R pa

a d a d

m m

R R

b pa b pa
30
Area of a triangle?

## Rhind problem 49: Multiply half a side with the

other side.
30
Area of a triangle?

## Rhind problem 49: Multiply half a side with the

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31
b

a+c b+d
·
2 2
32
Rhind problem 48

d 2
A = (d − )
9
33
The area of a circle 1

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 
33
The area of a circle 1

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33
The area of a circle 1

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33
The area of a circle 1

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34
The number π

## Definition: The ratio of the area of a circle and the

square of its radius is denoted by π.
34
The number π

## Definition: The ratio of the area of a circle and the

square of its radius is denoted by π.

d2 64 2
π ≈ d
4 81
34
The number π

## Definition: The ratio of the area of a circle and the

square of its radius is denoted by π.

d2 64 2
π ≈ d
4 81
64 256
π≈4 = = 3.1604938 . . .
81 81
34
The number π

## Definition: The ratio of the area of a circle and the

square of its radius is denoted by π.

d2 64 2
π ≈ d
4 81
64 256
π≈4 = = 3.1604938 . . .
81 81

• Babylonians: π ≈ 3.125

• Bible: π ≈ 3
35

d

## with given “mouth” d.

They use the formula
64 2
A=2 d
81
35

d

## with given “mouth” d.

They use the formula
64 2
A=2 d
81
This is
256 2
A=2 r
81
35

d

## with given “mouth” d.

They use the formula
64 2
A=2 d
81
This is
256 2
A=2 r
81
256
and since π ≈ 81 we find
A = 2πr2
36
Volume of a truncated pyramid

1
V = h(a2 + ab + b2)
3
37
How did they do it?

b h’

b
h

a a
38
Mysticism. . .

## • The ratio of twice the side to the height of the

Great pyramid is π.

## • In the dimensions of the Great pyramid are en-

coded: the radius of th earth, the density of earth,
the distance between earth and sun, . . .

## • All important dates of human history

39
40
Charles Piazzi Smyth

• 1819–1900

• Astronomer

41
Verification

## William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853–1942)

42
Other pyramidologists

• Charles Lagrange

• David Davison

• Georges Barbarin

• Robert Bauval

•...