How To Be a Wizard – In Ancient Egypt

A thought experiment:  What if a college student was transported to the time of King A-user-Re (See note 1)?  What skills and knowledge would such a person have that would be seen as wizardry by the ancient Egyptians?

Let’s do an inventory of a typical college student’s skills.  First living skills.  They can drive a car, do the laundry and  cook with a microwave oven.  They have a command of  smartphones and computers and other technical devices.  They know about the latest music and movies.  They get along well with other students.  Most of this knowledge depends on modern technology and culture and would not transfer to ancient Egypt. in 1650BC there would be no infrastructure for iPhones and the like and  batteries would run out in a few hours.

What have students learned in school that might amaze those old Egyptians?  The ability to read and write their native language would not be useful though they may have picked up transferable language learning skills if they have studied a second language.  Social science principles would probably apply 3700 years ago but most students study these, reasonably enough, in the context of the modern world.  The science that they have learned generally doesn’t include such useful knowledge as how to make gunpowder or make tincture of iodine.  That leave mathematics

Studious algebra students should be able to solve many of the algebra problems on the Rhind papyrus for example.  They know the algorithms for symbolic calculation with the Hindu-Arabic numeral system.  This is a highly useful skill since the ancient Egyptians were surveying, building pyramids and constructing calendars.  So learn mathematics and be a wizard – in ancient Egypt.

Note 1. Information from Mathematics in Historical Context by Jeff Suzuki, page 5.


About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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