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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Science                                  177

arraigned before the judgement seat of Osiris bears witness that
he has not 'diminished the cubit measure5 nor 'falsified the corn
measure'. The inter-relationship of measures and weights is of
particular interest and is evidence of considerable thought and
ingenuity. The same principle was not again made use of in
Europe until the introduction of the metric system.

The ancient Egyptians had a wide knowledge of plants and
herbs—especially of their medicinal uses—as well as of agricul-
ture and stock-breeding. Their knowledge was traditional and
in the nature of farm-lore. Calculations dealing with daily food
rations for different kinds of poultry and cattle point to organ-
ized farm life, and a fragmentary papyrus dealing with the treat-
ment of diseases of animals shows that attention was paid to
veterinary science.
The training of the educated classes was carried out in the
temple precincts, out of touch with manual work which was
relegated to a despised class. Learning was valued not so much
for its own sake, as for the fact that it provided a means of entry
into the civil service and escape from a life of manual toil. The
scribe developed an enthusiastic reverence for books and looked
down on the cultivator and artisan, who remained largely illiter-
ate. Thus it is hardly surprising that we have so little recorded
material for estimating the scientific value of the work of the
ancient Egyptians.
The reader may be disappointed to find here little encourage-
ment for the belief, fairly widespread among the general public,
in the wonderful scientific knowledge attributed to the ancient
Egyptians and now lost. There is no positive evidence for its
existence and it is not in keeping with what we do know of the
mentality of the people. Nevertheless, the Egyptian achieve-
ment must not be underrated. They were pioneers. They laid
the foundations of mathematics and science, and in the early
period of their history they made astonishing progress in the
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