Rhind Papyrus
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The Rhind Papyrus

 

The papyrus, a scroll about 6 meters long and 1/3 of a meter wide, was written around 1650 BC 

Ahmes is the scribe who wrote the Rhind Papyrus (named after the Scottish Egyptologist Alexander Henry Rhind who went to Thebes for health reasons, became interested in excavating and purchased the papyrus in Luxor in 1858).

Ahmes claims not to be the author of the work, being, he claims, only a scribe. He says that the material comes from an earlier work of about 2000 BC.

The papyrus is our chief source of information on Egyptian mathematics. The Recto contains division of 2 by the odd numbers 3 to 101 in unit fractions and the numbers 1 to 9 by 10. The Verso has 87 problems on the four operations, solution of equations, progressions, volumes of granaries, the two-thirds rule etc.

Unlike the Greeks who thought abstractly about mathematical ideas, the Egyptians were only concerned with practical arithmetic. In fact the Egyptians probably did not think of numbers as abstract quantities but always thought of a specific collection of 8 objects when 8 was mentioned. To overcome the deficiencies of their system of numerals the Egyptians devised cunning ways round the fact that their numbers were unsuitable for multiplication.

The Rhind Papyrus, which came to the British Museum in 1863, is sometimes called the 'Ahmes papyrus' in honor of Ahmes. Nothing is known of Ahmes other than his own comments in the papyrus.

The Moscow papyrus with a translation into hieroglyphics.