Three more mathematical documents in the Neues Museum

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The Berlin Papyrus 6619 s not the only mathematical “paper” of the Neues Museum of Berlin because we can see two more documents on exhibition. The first of them is a Greek papyrus (139 AD) with some geometrical problems and their solutions (first picture).
The second is a table with Greek fractions from the Byzantine epoch (7th century):

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, we find this ceramic piece which is part of a more complete catalogue composed of pieces P 11999, P 12000, P 12002, P 12007, P 12008, P 12609 and P 12611 from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, all of them found in Elefantina.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

These pieces contain one of the most difficult problems of the Greek mathematics: the construction of a regular icosahedron. This P12609 was translated and analised by Jürgen Mau and Wolfgang Müller (`Mathematische Ostraka aus der Berliner Sammlung’, Archiv für Papyrusforschung XVII (1962), 1-10.), and we find some words which help us to understand the text. For example, word σφαιρας suggests that we are studying a tridimensional figure, τριγωνων πλευρον refers to equilateral triangles and δεκαγων is used by Euclid in some propositions of the Elements.
We can think about the transmission of the Greek science from Alexandria to other Greek cities because of these pieces were found in Elefantina and not in Alexandria. After Euclid’s Elements, the only reference to a construction of a regular icosahedron is found in the work of Hypsicles (c. 190 BC-c.120 BC) who explains that his father and Basilides of Tyrus discussed in Alexandria about Apollonius’ construction of the regular dodecahedron and icosahedron.
LocationNeues Museum (map)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: