﻿Ancient Egyptians as Experts in Geometry
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## How Did the Ancient Egyptians Use Geometry?

written by: Kristina Dems • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/20/2012

Have you ever wondered how the Great Pyramids of Giza were built? This article narrates how the ancient Egyptians used geometry in creating the pyramids and other great wonders in history.

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### A General Impression of Geometry

We have been so accustomed to such colossal edifices that it seems we have forgotten to pause in wild-eyed awe and ask, “How were such magnificent monuments built during ancient times?” The answer is geometry.

Geometry, or the mathematics that deals with the measurement of and relationship between lines, points and figures, is as ancient as mankind itself. The earliest evidence of geometry can be traced back to the Indus Valley during the Bronze Age Civilization. Primitive human beings of that era were discovered to have a fairly impressive knowledge of obtuse triangles – a triangle where one of the interiors angles is more than 90 degrees.

Fast-forward to Ancient Greece. Euclid, a mathematician commonly referred to as the “Father of Geometry,” wrote The Elements, which is considered by many as an influential–if not the leading--textbook on geometry. The history of geometry would be incomplete without mentioning Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher who has been credited for discovering the equation, a2 + b2 = c2 or what we commonly refer to as the Pythagorean Theorem.

The Ancient Greeks may seem to have pioneered the study and application of geometry, but even hundreds of years before these celebrated thinkers were born, another venerable civilization has been diligently utilizing this field of mathematics – The Ancient Egyptians.

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### A Journey to Eqypt

The science of ancient Egyptian architecture, art and culture includes an appreciation of geometry. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, which was named after the Scottish Antiquarian Alexander Rhind, was unearthed during an excavation in Thebes and was dated back to around 1550 B.C. It reveals to us just how much the Egyptians had thoroughly grasped the concepts of geometry. This manuscript is short of being a treatise on the mathematical solutions to practical problems encountered in public works. It enumerates problems with their respective suggested answers in the form of numerical operations and geometrical shapes.

Although geometry during this period was still on the empirical side, the Egyptians were slowly able to make remarkable precision in approximations. They were able to calculate the area of a square, trapezoid, triangle, circle, the height and angles of a pyramid and even the volume of a cylinder. And as the Egyptians perfected their understanding of geometry, a new pursuit began toward the “sacred.”

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