Ancient Egyptian Mathematics: Used by Modern Computers?


Natalie Letcher‘s insight:

In this insightful short video Michael S. Schneider explains how the Ancient Egyptians  (& Chinese) and modern computers multiply and divide.

Illustrating enduring principles of mathematics and relational patterns of number that were already understood in the ancient world, what is of particular interest is that Schneider discusses how such techniques are employed in a parallel manner by modern computers today!



Fig. 2 Rhind Papyrus. Photo credit:

The symmetry and balance which ancient Egyptians so revered philosophically, is apparent in their artistic, architectural works, and in this context is evident even in their approach to arithmetic: note the method of utilizing two columns of related, doubled number patterns to do calculations in the video.

Obviously the monumental and magnificent pyramids could not have been constructed without mastery of mathematics and practical applications of geometry! Aristotle himself notes that “the mathematical arts were founded in Egypt; for there the priestly caste was allowed to be at leisure” (Aristotle, Metaphysics 981b20). Another ancient account by Proclus also cites the transfer of geometry from Egypt to Greece (Euclidem).

Although dated approximately 1000 years later than the time of the construction of the Great Pyramid, the Rhind Papyrus ca. 1650 BCE provides an ancient Egyptian record of nearly 90 calculations along with an extensive arithmetical table.  It is written in hieratic upon a scroll of an overall 18 feet in length (Gillings, Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs). The photo in Fig. 2 above is also supplemented by drawings of two triangles and a quadrangle. 

For those who would like to try figuring out some mathematical problems using Egyptian numbers (shown inscribed on a temple wall below), click the site link beneath the photo at bottom.

In his video, Schneider also mentions that some of the same mathematical techniques were used by the Chinese, who likewise observed and learned from eternal, enduring principles. Click this link to watch the video on

You can see more Egyptology news articles on – Egyptology News

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