Egyptian Numeral System

Around 3000 BC, the Egyptians had a hieroglyphs-based writing system. Hieroglyphs is a writing system of pictures that represents words and sounds..

Ancient Egyptians used the spoken sound of words to demonstrate the idea of a word; for example “I hear a dog barking” might be represented by “an eye” or “an ear.” But the same symbol might mean something different. For example, “an eye” means “see” and “an ear” means “sound.”

The Egyptians had a system of base 10 in their numeral hieroglyphs. This shows that they had separate symbols for unit, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand and million.

Here are the numeral hieroglyphs


If we try to compose the number 276, we need fifteen symbols: two symbols of “hundred,” seven symbols of “ten,” and six symbols of “unit.” The numbers thus appeared as:


276 in hieroglyphs.

Another example:


4622 in hieroglyphs.

The above examples were found carved in stone in Karnak and are from around 1500 BC. As we can easily see, addition of numerals in hieroglyphs is easy. One just adds the individual symbols, but ten copies of a symbol would be replaced by a single symbol of the next higher value.