Culturama Bibliotheca Alexandrina

This  papyrus was found in Luxor and was bought by a British tourist called Rhind, the name by which it had become known to the world, “the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus”. It is five meters long and is now in the British museum; some of its fragments are in the Brooklyn Museum in the US.  It contains two parts, the first is a mathematical table of unitary fractions and the other part is a series of problems in mathematics, geometry, volumes, and equations; It has a total of eighty seven problems. The papyrus is written in hieratic, a cursive way of writing hieroglyphic and it is written from right to left like the Arabic and Hebrew languages.

The cover page of an ancient papyrus is similar to the cover page of a recent book today. The cover has a title in red that reads “Correct Method of Reckoning”, for grasping the meaning of things and knowing everything that is, obscurities, (followed a missing part), all secrets, then the dating. At the time of ancient Egyptians they gave the number of the year starting from the reign of the king and also related it to seasons. Having three seasons every year and each was divided into four months, the dating of this papyrus reads as follows: It was written in the fourth month of the season of inundation in year thirty three of the reign of King AUSER. Knowing from the dating of the ancient Egyptian kings that King AUSER reigned from a certain year to a certain year and adding thirty three years at the beginning of his reign, this papyrus was written in the year one thousand five hundred and fifty two BCE. Even at the time of the Pharaohs, there was the concept of intellectual property rights since it says that it is copied from work written down in the reign of King NYmat Ru or Amnemhat who lived four hundred years before King AUSER. Thus, the dating of the original papyrus is about two thousand years BCE, four thousand years before our time. The papyrus was copied in one thousand five hundred fifty two BCE, a thousand years before the time of Pythagoras and Euclid. Finally, the name of the scribe, Ahmos, who had copied the papyrus is written on the cover page.


A typical famous page of this papyrus shows six mathematical problems;  area of a rectangle, area of a circle, area of a triangle, area of a truncated triangle, similarities of triangles,  and another sixth problem.  Every problem is bounded by two black lines to separate them and a title in red. The statement of the problem to the right and the solution of the problem to the left.  For example, for the problem to find the area of a rectangle, the problem is organized into items. The first item is a sketch of the triangle showing the dimension of the base which is four khet (more than a meter and a khet is four hundred cubits) and the height is ten khet i.e. one thousand cubits. The title of the problem “example of calculating the area of a triangular land”. The statement of the problem is:  assume you have a triangle of height ten khet and a base of four khet what’s the area? The solution is as follows: take half of the base four this gives two, so that you can square the triangle so that you can make it equivalent to a rectangle. (This is the proof that was given by the Greeks one thousand years later). Then you multiply ten times two this will give you the area.

                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                        

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