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Image of Horus

Hieroglyphic sign for Horus

The main feature of Egyptian mathematics were their fractions. The hieroglyphic symbol for fraction is at the same time the smallest unit for grain and is described by a symbol for ro , depicting an open mouth.

Ro is the smallest part of a hekat largest measure for grain. The only fractions of hekat used were 2 4 8 1 6 3 2 and 6 4. The smallest of these fractions, 6 4, contained 5 ro . These fractions were written in a special way, quite unlike ordinary fractions and the symbols when put together, form the Eye of Horus, one of the most well known symbols of ancient Egypt, and were used solely for the measure of grain.

Horus was the son of Isis and Osiris, who was conceived after Isis revived Osiris (as he was slain by his brother Seth). Horus is also one of the names of the sun, and had his myths independently from either Ra or Osiris.

The myth of Blind Horus describes the victory of Darkness over Light. A legend contained in the 112th chapter of the Book of the Dead describes Horus as wounded in the eye by Seth (or Set) in the   form of a black boar. Set swallowed the eye, and was compelled to vomit it from the prison in which he was confined with a chain of steel fastened about his neck. The Eye of Horus is afterwards spoken of as a distinct deity, terrible to the enemies of Light.

Image of Horuse slaying Seth, the Force of Darkness

According to another version of the legend, Horus' eye is restored to him by Tehuti (or Teth, who is known to be, among other things, a God of Mathematics), who is the Egyptian Hermes. Tehuti is sometimes called also "the measurer of this earth". He is said to have "calculated the heaven and counted the stars", and to have "calculated the earth and counted the things which are in it".

Horus role in the Egyptian mythology is also often linked to the rites of the dead, and the gods who prepare and take the deceased to the otherworld. Through the rites performed by priests, the new body of the deceased grew out of the dead body and was called into existence by the ceremonies and words which were recited by the priests on the day when the mummified body was laid in the tomb.

The gods nourished themselves with celestial food, which was supplied to them by the Eye of Horus.



More topics on Egyptian mathematics

Egyptian numerals

Egyptian fractions

Eye of Horus and fractions

Dyadic multipltication

Other Egyptian gods and mathematics

Rhynd and Moscow Papiri

An Egyptian scribe from the Fourth Dynasty.



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