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Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

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a part of the papyrus

The Rhind papyrus is a papyrus that contains work and writing on mathematical subjects which are known as arithmetic,algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and fractions. Together with the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus it is the main source of knowledge about mathematics in Ancient Egypt. The Rhind Papyrus dates to about 1550 BC. It is named after Alexander Henry Rhind, who bought it in Luxor, Egypt, in 1858. It was probably found in illegal excavations, near the Ramesseum, in Thebes. Today, the papyrus is kept in the British Museum. The museum bought both the Rhind papyrus and the Egyptian Mathematical Leather Roll from Rhind.[1] The rhind papyrus is larger than the Moscow mathematical papyrus; the Moscow papyrus is older.[2]

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus dates to the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt and is the best example of Egyptian mathematics. It was copied by the scribe Ahmes (i.e., Ahmose; Ahmes is an older transcription favoured by historians of mathematics), from a now-lost text from the reign of king Amenemhat III (12th dynasty). Written in the hieratic script, this Egyptian manuscript is 33 cm tall is made up of multiple parts. In total it is over 5 metres (16 ft) long. It was transliterated and the mathematics was translated in the late 19th century. In 2008, the mathematical translation aspect is incomplete in several respects. The document is dated to Year 33 of the Hyksos king Apophis and also contains a separate later Year 11 on its verso likely from his successor, Khamudi.[3]

In the opening paragraphs of the papyrus, Ahmes presents the papyrus as giving "Accurate reckoning for inquiring into things, and the knowledge of all things, mysteries...all secrets". He continues with:

This book was copied in regnal year 33, month 4 of Akhet, under the majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Awserre, given life, from an ancient copy made in the time of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nimaatre (?). The scribe Ahmose writes this copy.[1]

Several books and articles about the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus have been published, and a handful of these stand out.[2] The Rhind Papyrus was published in 1923 by Peet and contains a discussion of the text that followed Griffith's Book I, II and III outline [4] Chase published a compendium in 1927/29 which included photographs of the text.[5] A more recent overview of the Rhind Papyrus was published in 1987 by Robins and Shute. [6]

Other websites


  1. 1.0 1.1 Clagett, Marshall Ancient Egyptian Science, A Source Book. Volume Three: Ancient Egyptian Mathematics (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society) American Philosophical Society. 1999 ISBN 978-0-87169-232-0
  2. 2.0 2.1 Anthony Spalinger , The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus as a Historical Document, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Bd. 17 (1990), pp. 295-, Helmut Buske Verlag GmbH
  3. cf. Thomas Schneider's paper 'The Relative Chronology of the Middle Kingdom and the Hyksos Period (Dyns. 12-17)' in Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss & David Warburton (editors), Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Handbook of Oriental Studies), Brill: 2006, p.194-195
  4. Peet, Thomas Eric. 1923. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, British Museum 10057 and 10058. London: The University Press of Liverpool limited and Hodder & Stoughton limited
  5. Chace, Arnold Buffum. 1927-1929. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus: Free Translation and Commentary with Selected Photographs, Translations, Transliterations and Literal Translations. Classics in Mathematics Education 8. 2 vols. Oberlin: Mathematical Association of America. (Reprinted Reston: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1979). ISBN 0-87353-133-7
  6. Robins, R. Gay, and Charles C. D. Shute. 1987. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus: An Ancient Egyptian Text. London: British Museum Publications Limited. ISBN 0-7141-0944-4