Ancient Egypt’s Religious Need for Mathematics
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Ancient Egyptians are known for their mathematical prowess. To understand what inspired this progress, we must contextualize the mathematical procedures that were developed and used at the time. In ancient Egypt, mathematics was developed for utility -- e.g., counting goods, measuring land, determining taxes -- and was not particularly focused on theory or determining mathematical truths. A prominent scholar of ancient Egyptian mathematical papyri, T. Eric Peet, commented that “interest in or speculation concerning a subject for its own sake was totally foreign to their mind” (Archibald). This assessment reflects the attachment to tradition, which is clear in Egyptian culture. However, ancient Egyptian mathematicians (scribes) developed the skills to keep up with the advancements in Egypt such as population growth, the increasing size and intricacy of architecture, and a changing economy, while maintaining use of traditional methods. The standardization of these methods contributed to Egypt’s exceptional achievements in mathematics, architecture, and culture. The religiously motivated behaviors of ancient Egyptians stimulated mathematical development.