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Ancient Egyptian Mathematics - The Great Pyramid of Giza

Ancient Egyptian Mathematics - The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Egyptians built The Great Pyramid at Giza as an amazing burial monument for Pharaoh Khufu. But they did more. They also used it as a showcase for their mathematical and engineering skills.

Pi is probably the most famous number in mathematics. Draw any circle, then measure the length of the circumference and the length of the diameter. Divide the two numbers and you get pi. But a circle was not used in the design of The Great Pyramid of Giza, right? Wrong! Not only was a circle used it was totally fundamental to the design. Here's how..

The Khufu Pyramid (The Great Pyramid of Giza) had a design height of 280 royal cubits and a base length of 440 royal cubits. The Pyramid we see today is slightly different due to erosion and theft of stone. So let's stick with the original design size.

So the distance around the base of the pyramid is simply 4*440=1760 royal cubits.

Let's divide this by twice the height, which is 560 royal cubits, so we get..


The number 22/7 is the most famous approximation of pi and in fact, before the modern mathematical era, it was thought that pi was exactly 22/7.

So the Khufu Pyramid was built on circular geometry. Which means the Egyptians knew pi by the time they built the Great Pyramid (2560 BC). For all we know they may have known it much earlier.

Not only did they know pi, they used it to define the dimensions of their most sacred monument. What does this mean?

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott