Ancient Egyptians and Mathematics

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ancient egyptian math

The ancient Egyptians were possibly the first civilization to practice the scientific arts. Indeed, the word chemistry is derived from the word Alchemy which is the ancient name for Egypt. Where the Egyptians really excelled was in medicine and applied mathematics. But although there is a large body of papyrus literature describing their achievements in medicine, there are no records of how they reached their mathematical conclusions. Of course they must have had an advanced understanding of the subject because their exploits in engineering, astronomy and administration would not have been possible without it.

The Egyptians had a decimal system using seven different symbols.

ancient egyptian numbers

1 is shown by a single stroke.
10 is shown by a drawing of a hobble for cattle.
100 is represented by a coil of rope.
1,000 is a drawing of a lotus plant.
10,000 is represented by a finger.
100,000 by a tadpole or frog
1,000,000 is the figure of a god with arms raised above his head.


ancient egyptian mathematics

The conventions for reading and writing numbers is quite simple; the higher number is always written in front of the lower number and where there is more than one row of numbers the reader should start at the top.

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