Ancient Egypt, Math & Beer

Thanks to Pete Slosberg — he of the formerly wicked persuasion — for passing this along. It’s not strictly about beer, so feel free to ignore it if math and history isn’t your cup of beer. Today’s New York Times Science has a fun article, Math Puzzles’ Oldest Ancestors Took Form on Egyptian Papyrus, about how the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus contains several clever math puzzles, including some thought to be more modern and also having to do with beer.


For example, some of the puzzles “involve a pefsu, a unit measuring the strength or weakness of beer or bread based on how much grain is used to make it,” such as this one:

One problem calculates whether it’s right to exchange 100 loaves of 20-pefsu bread for 10 jugs of 4-pefsu malt-date beer. After a series of steps, the papyrus proclaims, according to one translation: “Behold! The beer quantity is found to be correct.”

Fun stuff. I wonder what “pefsu” is compared to say a.b.v.?


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