Ancient Egyptians numerical system drew inspiration from natural world

November 26th, 2007 - 2:13 pm ICT by admin  

London, November 26 (ANI): The numerical system that was followed by ancient Egyptians was largely based on the natural world, says an Egyptologist.

George Hart, formerly of the British Museum, says that recording numbers and quantities was an important requirement of bureaucracy after the invention of hieroglyphs.

While a vertical or horizontal stroke was used to indicate numbers 1 to 9, a hobble for cattle would indicate 10 to 90, a coil of rope 100 to 900 and a lotus 1,000 to 9,000.

For higher numerals, a finger raised for counting would represent 10,000 and a tadpole would indicate 100,000.

The concept of a million was confined to royal propaganda to convey the sense of the infinite number of years for which the Pharaoh (a king of ancient Egypt) and his monuments would exist. The notation took the form of a god with his arms raised to support the sky.

For indicating fractions or a part, the above numbers were written under or beside the mouth sign.

A specialist system of indicating numerals was used for measuring bushels of wheat, often used for payment in Egypt that had no coinage. It was based on the sign of the human eye.

This took the sign of the human eye with the markings of a falcons cheek below it, known as the eye of Horus, and broke it into separate parts so that the eyebrow, for instance, equalled one eighth and the pupil one quarter.

The fraction was then added up to 63/64, and the missing 1/64 was left to be magically supplied by the god Thoth who was responsible for mathematical accuracy.

For measuring the length, the distance between the elbow and finger-tip was used, which would roughly be 20 inches.

Accurate dating was done for royal documents and for determining the days when specific rituals would be performed in temples, reports Times Online.

The newspaper also reports that most ancient Egyptians recognised three seasons, viz., the Nile flood, the winter sowing of crops and the summer harvest.

People also marked lucky and unlucky days in the calendar. They preferred staying indoors when it was the birthday of the violent god Seth. (ANI)

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