Egyptian hieroglyphics are in great abundance throughout Egypt. They were essentially indecipherable until 1799 when in Alexandria the trilingual Rosetta Stone was discovered. The Rosetta stone, an irregularly shaped tablet of black basalt measuring about 3 feet 9 inches by 2 feet 4 inches, was found near the town of Rosetta (Rashid) just a few miles nortwest of Alexandria. Written in the two languages (Greek and Egyptian but three writing systems (hieroglyphics, its cursive form demotic script, and Greek, it provided the key toward the deciphering of hierglyphic writing. The inscriptions on it were the benefactions conferred by Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205 - 180 BCE) were written by the priests of Memphis. The translation was primarily due to Thomas Young1 (1773 - 1829) and
For the Egyptians writing was an esthetic experience, and they viewed their writing signs as ``God's words." This could explain the unnecessary complexity, in face of the fact that obviously simplifications would certainly have occurred if writing were designed for all citizens.
The demotic script was for more general use, the hieroglyphics continued to be used for priestly and formal applications.
The Egyptians established an annual calendar of 12 months of 30 days each plus five feast days. Religion was a central feature of Egyptian society. There was a preoccupation with death. Many of Egypt's greatest monuments were tombs constructed at great expense, and which required detailed logistical calculuations and at least basic geometry.
Construction projects on a massive scale were routinely carried out. The logistics of construction require all sorts of mathematics. You will see several mensuration (measurement) problems, simple algebra problems, and the methods for computation.
Our sources of Egyptian mathematics are scarce. Indeed, much of our knowledge of ancient Egyptian mathematics comes not from the hieroglyphics3 (carved sacred letters or sacred letters) inscribed on the hundreds of temples but from two papyri containing collections of mathematical problems with their solutions.
A remarkable number of papyri, some dating from 2,500 BCE, have been found, protected from decompostion by the dry heat of the region though they often lay unprotected in desert sands or burial tombs.
* See the URL: http://odyssey.lib.duke.edu/papyrus/texts/homepage.html