Egyptian Numerals

Earliest Egyptian system hieroglyphic based on the repetition of symbols for one, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand and million.

Oldest known numerals:

Hieroglyphs were written from right to left

Because there are different symbols for one, ten, hundred etc. it doesn't matter which way round you write the number.

No need for zero

Our knowledge of how calculations were performed derives from a number of surviving papyri (Rhind, Ahmes).

Ahmes is written in hieratic script but can be transcribed into hieroglyps.

To multiply 12 by 12 the Egyptians would first double the number 12 and then double the result.
4 x 12 = 48
8 x 12 = 96
To proceed more rapidly the Egyptians frequently multiplied by 10. Also they sometimes halved the results obtained

e.g.:16 x 16
1 x 16 = 16
10 x 16 = 160
5 x 16 = 80
The hieratic system developed from the hieroglyphs. In this system the Egyptians went from repetition or ordering to encipherment (the assignment of an individual symbol to a number).

hieratic form, not repetition goes up to !!

Perhaps they went too far - too many symbols!!

Sumerian and Babylonian Numerals

The Development of Counting Systems and Notations

History of Mathematics Module

Links to other History of Mathematics sites

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These pages are maintained by M.I.Woodcock.