The content of the Moscow and Rhind Papyruses shed considerable light on the nature and extent of ancient Egyptian mathematics. Both papyri provide vivid documentary evidence of geometrical reasoning in the Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty and insight into the practical applications of mathematics prior to the more formal development of mathematical theory in ancient Greece. A careful analysis of the mathematical presentation and content of the two documents, however, limits the claims of Egyptian influence upon the later rise of theory in Greek mathematics.
The physical archaeological record leaves little doubt as to the use and influence of mathematics on ancient Egyptian culture. Temples and other cultural artifacts provide extensive evidence of mathematical reasoning that predates the existing documentary record. The arrangement of pillars and stones in temple monuments, such as those found at Karnak, are lasting tribute to the careful calculations of ancient priests and astronomers in their attempt to provide accurate calendars based upon the movements of the Sun.
Whatever the initial need for a written record, whether its first use was as a more portable means of recording and deciphering astronomical data, or whether the general rise of civilization provided a swelling and multifaceted need to record the methods of mathematical reasoning, the earliest existing documentary records embodied in the Moscow papyrus and the Rhind papyrus, disclose that the ancient Egyptians utilized considerable practical skill in the use and application of mathematics. (more)