Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

Thebes, Egypt, end of the Second Intermediate Period, around 1550 BC

A number of documents have survived that allow us insight into the ancient Egyptians' approach to mathematics. This papyrus is the most extensive.

It is not a theoretical treatise, but a list of practical problems encountered in administrative and building works. The text contains 84 problems concerned with numerical operations, practical problem-solving, and geometrical shapes.

The majority of literate Egyptians were scribes and they were expected to undertake various tasks. These must have demanded some mathematical as well as writing skills.

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is also important as a historical document, since the copyist noted that he was writing in year 33 of the reign of Apophis, the penultimate king of the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty (about 1650-1550 BC) and was copied after an original of the Twelfth Dynasty (about 1985-1795 BC).

On the other side of the papyrus 'year 11' is mentioned, with a reference to the taking of some Egyptian towns. This probably refers to the fighting between the Egyptians and the Hyksos before the beginning of the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC). However, it is not certain to which king 'year 11' refers.

The papyrus was acquired by the Scottish lawyer A.H. Rhind during his stay in Thebes in the 1850s.


Ancient Egypt

Video

Towards the end of the fourth millennium BC independent city-states unified to begin of over 3,000 years of pharaonic civilisation in the Nile Valley.

Ancient Egypt world culture

2nd Intermediate period

Video

 

Language and writing in Ancient Egypt

Although its a dead language, Egyptian is preserved in texts written over a period of more than four thousand years.

Read the full article


Find in the collection online


More information

Bibliography

G. Robins and C. Shute, The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)

Dimensions

Height: 32 cm
Width: 199.5 cm

 

Museum number

EA 10057

YCA63202;YCA70712

Location

Find in the collection online

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

17.

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

Listen now

Related products

Book

A History of the World in 100 objects

 
By Neil MacGregor

Accompanies the BBC Radio 4 series




This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects


Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore