The ancient Egyptians had amazing knowledge of all things to do with medicine, architecture, mathematics and astronomy. Where did they learn it from?
The Cheops Pyramid, the last surviving wonder of the ancient world, hides a lot of secrets still to this day. How did the Egyptians build a tomb nearly 150 meters high out of more than 2.3 million limestone blocks? And how is it possible that this structure has perfectly measured right angles? Did they already know the number π (pi) that appears again and again in the dimensions of the Cheops pyramid?
The pyramids are just one of many puzzles, as the Egyptians had amazing skills in many other areas as well. They processed metals and utility plants too. They described diseases such as asthma and tetanus, and treated them with carefully selected herbal remedies. Where did they get this knowledge from?
The problem is that in many areas, hardly any written evidence has survived. For example, how the Egyptians built the pyramids can only be reconstructed on the basis of "silent" archaeological finds, such as the traces of workshops, the discovered buildings, ruins and possibly wall paintings in tombs for example. Fortunately, we also have a handful of papyri that have survived for millennia and are revealing the secret. And so the oldest material document, the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, which is located in the British Museum in London (dating from around 1550 BC, although probably a copy of an even older document), can be treated as a kind of "textbook" of Egyptian mathematics. It is not only about prosaic multiplication, division or more complicated fractions, but also about the volume and areas of various figures and the height-to-side ratio of the pyramid. This leads us to believe that the people on the Nile did indeed calculate using the approximate value of π (pi).
We do not see π (pi) as a constant, but a sophisticated algorithmic computation system. The procedures contained in it allow for a very accurate calculation of the angles of inclination and the heights of the pyramids.
Three main areas of knowledge were important in ancient Egypt.
First: maintaining the world order. After all, the temples, with their texts and rituals, served this purpose first and foremost. It is worth adding that existence was constantly threatened, for example, by the lack of floods of the Nile, which guaranteed soil fertility.
Second: the cult of the dead. There are numerous writings showing how to go unscathed into the afterlife. The E32847 papyrus even states that doctors were present at the removal of the guts, and specifies what substances were used for mummification.
Third: medicine. Medicines for severe wounds or cancer are described in writings from around 1900 BC.
The question is how the Egyptians acquired this knowledge. A potential trail leads to the Nubian Desert, where 20 years ago huge complexes with ceremonial sites, strange tombs and an ancient stone circle were found to mark the time of the summer solstice. Scientists speculate that these structures were built by an unknown pre-culture that migrated down along the Nile from central Africa 11,000 years ago - and which gave rise to the ancient Egyptians several thousand years later.
Was this culture the source of their knowledge? This is another of the still unsolved mysteries - according to the Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, two-thirds of the secrets of the land of the pharaohs still remain undiscovered today.
If only we knew....
If we knew now what forgotten knowledge and secret technology was used to erect the pyramids, we could certainly use this in future construction projects. It wouldn't be the first time anyway. The knowledge of the ancient Egyptians must always be looked at in the context of their time and shouldn’t be compared with the present state of science.
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