Egyptian Numbers

Fractions

Hieroglyphic Fractions

Fractions record values smaller than one. They represent a fractional portion of a whole value. Modern fractions contain both a numerator and a denominator. The denominator represents the total number of portions in the whole value and the numerator represents the fractional part we are measuring. Typically numerators are less than the denominator.

A smaller numerator divided by a larger denominator yields a value less than one – a fraction:

numerator-denominator-fraction_300x60

Here's a modern fraction:

In the case of modern fractions, both the numerator and denominator can vary. Hieroglyphic fractions are a little different. With hieroglyphic fractions the numerator is always 1 and only the denominator varies.

Fractions use the same hieroglyphs as Egyptian numbers. With the addition of the fraction symbol, hieroglyphic numbers are read as the denominator of a fraction with a numerator of 1.

The fraction symbol is like writing 'one part of'…

fraction-symbol_86x37

The fraction symbol can be placed above or in front of numbers

1/5 is written

fraction-one-fifth-example_300x100

As with hieroglyphic numbers, individual fractions are additive and can be combined to make larger fractions. To represent fractions with a numerator other than one, the Egyptians combined several fractions.

3/5 is the same as 6/10 or 1/2 + 1/6

fraction-three-fifth-example_300x100

Special Hieroglyphic Fractions

Because adding fractions is cumbersome, the Ancient Egyptians used a few special characters t0 represent a few common fractions. In these cases, the numerator might have a value other than 1. This makes it possible for a more complex fraction to be represented with a single hieroglyph.

common-fractions_300x175

 

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