- Museum number
- Object: The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus
Papyrus; Hieratic text verso and recto: the "Rhind Mathematical Papyrus". The papyrus is probably a mathematics textbook, used by scribes to learn to solve particular mathematical problems by writing down appropriate examples. The text includes eighty-four problems with tables of divisions, multiplications, and handling of fractions; and geometry, including volumes and areas.The scribe, Ahmose, dated the papyrus in year 33 of Apophis, the penultimate king of the Hyksos 15th Dynasty. The other side of the papyrus mentions 'year 11' without a king's name, but with a reference to the capture of the city of Heliopolis.
- Production date
- 1550 BC
Length: 319 centimetres (Frame)
Length: 295.50 centimetres (Papyrus)
Width: 34.30 centimetres (Frame)
Width: 32 centimetres (Papyrus)
- Curator's comments
- For the second section of the papyrus see: EA 10058; 1865,0218.3
Several documents have survived that yield some insights into the ancient Egyptians' approach to mathematics. The best-known and longest is the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, acquired by the Scottish lawyer A.H. Rhind in Thebes in about 1858. Budge's original introduction to the facsimile of the papyrus indicates that these fragments were found in a chamber of a ruined building near the Ramesseum. The two sections in the British Museum were linked by a now missing section about 18 cm long; the original may have been cut in half by modern robbers to increase its sale value. Fragments which partly fill this gap were identified in 1922, in the collection of the New York Historical Society, which had acquired them from Edwin Smith. Smith also acquired a surgical papyrus of about the same date as the Rhind Papyrus, suggesting that these two documents could have come from a cache of early New Kingdom manuscripts.
The papyrus is probably a mathematics textbook, used by scribes (the principal literate section of the populace) to learn to solve particular mathematical problems by writing down appropriate examples. The text includes eighty-four problems: tables of divisions, multiplications, and handling of fractions; geometry, including volumes and areas; and miscellaneous problems.
The papyrus is extremely important as a historical document, since the scribe, Ahmose, dated it in year 33 of Apophis, the penultimate king of the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty. The other side of the papyrus mentions 'year 11' without a king's name, but with a reference to the capture of the city of Heliopolis. The late Second Intermediate Period context suggests this may refer to conflict between the Egyptians and the Hyksos before the beginning of the New Kingdom. Most scholars believe this refers to year 11 of the Theban ruler Ahmose, which would add to the evidence that Ahmose did not campaign against the Hyksos rulers until the middle or later parts of his reign (Strudwick N 2006).
G. Robins and C. Shute, The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus : an ancient Egyptian text (BM press 1987);
A. B. Chace, The Rhind mathematical papyrus : free translation and commentary with selected photographs, transcriptions, transliterations, and literal translations (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 1979 [reprint]);
A. Imhausen, Ägyptische Algorithmen : eine Untersuchung zu den mittelägyptischen mathematischen Aufgabentexten (Harrassowitz, 2003);
Nicholson and Shaw, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology (Cambridge 2000), p. 240;
N. Strudwick, Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt, London 2006, pp. 118-9.
A. Imhausen, Mathematics in Ancient Egypt. A Contextual History, Princeton and Oxford 2016.
On problem 60, see Miatello, JARCE 45 (2009), 153-8.
Miatello, L. 2018. Inferring the Construction Process of Two Geometric Algorithms, GM 256: 125-141.
- Not on display
- Papyrus Survey:
Tabbed: kraft paper
Checked for loan to Vienna 1994
Refused for loan to Paris 1997
Displayed in Room 62 until 1997
Sandwich: uv filtered film
Object Priority: C
Mount Priority: A
Overall Condition: C
Curatorial condition comment:
- Acquisition date
- Egypt and Sudan
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: BS.10057 (Birch Slip Number)