Numbers index

Ancient Egyptian Numbers

Egyptian Numbers --- Introduction --- Addition --- Multiplication --- Fractions

Eye of Horus Eye with fractions Horus had his eye gouged out and torn to pieces by his enemy, Seth, but Thoth healed it (see Horus's webpage for the full story). The Ancient Egyptians used the pieces of this eye to describe fractions. The diagram shows which part of the eye showed which fraction. You could have other fractions by combining them, so three quarters would have the parts of the eye showing a half and a quarter. You can see that they only used some fractions. They couldn't describe a third accurately, for example. A whole eye represented one. If you add all the pieces up, you find they come to 63/64, not 64/64. The Egyptians said that the missing 1/64 was made up by Thoth's magic! Wouldn't you like a bit of Thoth's magic when your sums don't come out right?

To see how these fractions work, type in a number below. You can type a fraction. It is set up as fractions of 64, but you can change this if you want. 63/64 and 64/64 will both show a whole eye (see above). The Egyptians wouldn't understand decimals, but this is what we use now. So if you prefer, you can enter a decimal between zero and one, and you will get the nearest Egyptian approximation. You can also step through all possible eye fraction symbols, or run it as an animation (moving picture).
Enter fraction: /
Enter decimal:

Eye of Horus
The Egyptians had other symbols for their whole numbers