Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ahmes and the Rhind Papyrus (c 1680-1620 BCE)

Sierra Club


Ahmes was the Egyptian scribe who wrote the Rhind Papyrus. The papyrus is our chief source of information on Egyptian mathematics. The papyrus is named after a young Scottish antiquary named A. Henry Rhind who purchased the papyrus at Luxor in 1858. The papyrus is said to have been found in the ruins of a small ancient building at Thebes. The scroll originally had measured 18 feet by 13 inches.

The scroll was a practical handbook of Egyptian mathematics. It contains 85 problems, exhibiting the use of fractions, the solution of simple equations and progressions, and the mensuration of areas and volumes. One of the problems reads as follows [1]: "Divide 100 loaves among 5 men in such a way that the shares received shall be in arithmetical progression and that one seventh (1/7) of the sum of the largest three shares shall be equal to the sum of the smallest two. What is the difference of the shares?"

[1] Newman, James R., The World of Mathematics, Vol. 1, The Rhind Papyrus, p. 170-178, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1956


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