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around 1550 BCE

Rhind Papyrus

Famous papyrus of the scribe Ahmes

The Rhind papyrus is one of the most famous ancient Egyptian mathematical texts. It is named after Scottish antiquarian Alexander Henry Rhind, who purchased the papyrus in Luxor, Egypt, in 1858. The majority of the papyrus was acquired by the British Museum in 1865, though a few small fragments are now held by the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. One strip of the papyrus has been lost.

Rhind Papyrus

The Rhind papyrus was copied by the scribe Ahmes around 1550 BCE from a now-lost earlier text. Ahmes described the papyrus as providing "Accurate reckoning for inquiring into things, and the knowledge of all things, mysteries… all secrets," identifies himself as the writer and gives the date. The papyrus is divided into three books, the first part consisting of reference tables (including the famous 2/n table) and a collection of arithmetic and algebraic problems, the second part consisting of geometry problems and the third part containing a miscellany of problems.

Artifact dimensions

295.5 cm × 32 cm, 199.5 cm × 32 cm

Original artifact location

Ramesseum (historical name), Luxor, Egypt (current name)

Current artifact location

British Museum, London

Catalog number

EA10057, EA10058

Timeline

Arithmetic timeline Rhind Papyrus Egyptian Mathematical Problem Papyrus Salamis Tablet Bakhshali Manuscript Pacioli's Summa Incan Yupana Napier's Rabdologiæ

Interactive Content

Computational Explanation

Other Resources

Additional Reading

  • Aboulfotouh, H. M. K. "The Geometric Grids of the Hieratic Numeral Signs." Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 12, No 1, pp. 129–138, 2012.
  • Cajori, F. A History of Mathematical Notations: Two Volumes Bound as One, Vol. 1. New York: Dover, pp. 14–15, 1993.
  • Chace, A. B. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus: Free Translation and Commentary with Selected Photographs, Translations, Transliterations and Literal Translation. 1927–1929.
  • Imhausen, A. "Egyptian Mathematics." Ch. 1 in The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam: A Sourcebook (Ed. V. J. Katz). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 7–56 and table on p. 20, 2007.
  • Imhausen, A. Mathematics in Ancient Egypt. A Contextual History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.
  • Mankiewicz, R. The Story of Mathematics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 12–13, 2004.
  • Peet, T. E. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, British Museum 10057 and 10058. London: The University Press of Liverpool limited and Hodder & Stoughton limited, 1923.
  • Pickover, C. The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics. New York: Sterling, pp. 36–37, 2012.
  • Robins, R. G. and Shute, C. C. D. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus: An Ancient Egyptian Text. London: British Museum Publications Limited, 1987.

Image Credits

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