The Rhind Papyrus
The Rhind Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian document dated to around 1650 BC. It is one of the oldest mathematical documents in existence and vital to our understanding of Egyptian math.
More subtly, it gives us a glimpse into the social and economic world of the ancient Egyptians. Out of 84 problems (and solutions) contained within it, here are a few of my favorite:
Problem 64. Divide 10 hekats of barley among 10 men so that the common difference is 1/8 of a hekat of barley.
Problem 79. There are seven houses; in each house there are seven cats; each cat kills seven mice; each mouse has eaten seven grains of barley; each grain would have produced seven hekat. What is the sum of all the enumerated things.
Problem 24: A quantity (any) plus one-seventh of it becomes 19. What is the quantity?
A modern day mathematician or even a high school student would view solutions that the Egyptian mathematicians gave to these problems as labyrinthine. On the other hand, they might also view the original works of Newton or Euler as convoluted too. What might seem trivial today was emergent yesterday. In that way, nothing is truly trivial. It only seems that way because we have forgotten a time when we didn't know it.
There is also the Moscow Papyrus appearing about 200 years before (~1850 BC) the Rhind Papyrus. We are not sure how but translations do reveal that they had known the value of Π to an accuracy not acheived until Archimedes and how to calculate the volume of a frustum.
Posted by Krist at 10:26 PM