A form of thought in the pure state stripped of the garb of words, mathematics embodies in an essential manner, with numbers and operations, the logical structures of those who have created it. Hence it can represent a source of insight into a lost civilisation. This study has essentially two objectives: to sketch out a compendium of the mathematical themes and techniques known in the Egypt of the Middle Kingdom, and to deduce from these as much information as possible on the Egyptian mentality. The mathematical evidence is tackled here from a dual viewpoint: as the tools of an empirical science of calculation, and also as emblematic of a mode of conceiving mathematics as an instrument of knowledge in the sense of being a reflection of the established order. The evidence throws up the fact that mathematics is not conceived as an abstract science, but rather as the practical preliminary tool of a physics understood as measurement of the quantities and the greatness of the visible world. The role which it plays in the cognitive process is not independent, but always connected with questions of a philosophical nature. It is therefore a practical science in the sense in which the Egyptians understood it, that is an instrument for understanding nature: a science at the service of theology.
University of Siena, Italy
in the Catalogue