The ancient Egyptians made several noteworthy advances. Among their greatest achievements is existing for thousands of years (although not continuously) as an autonomous, self-governed society. They also harnessed the powers of nature so that they could produce food, fuel, and shelter for a large civilization.

The magnificence of ancient Egypt was certainly the envy and talk of the nations. With all its magnificent buildings, colorful paintings, and grand statues, my guess is that Egypt was the Universal Studios of the ancient world.  Not quite Disney, though, with all the pagan worship and animal sacrifices.

Many important individuals visited Egypt. The house of Israel sought refuge there around 1500 BC. Alexander the Great took a major detour on his way to dethrone Persian King Darius and visited Egypt around 330 BC. Of course, Mary and Joseph sheltered there with the baby Jesus around 1 AD.

Other important travelers visited Egypt around 600 BC. They were Greek scholars. Tired of mythological buffoonery, Greek scholars visited Egypt to acquire secular knowledge. They wanted to understand things in a rational-empirical way rather than a mythological way. Greek scholars turned their backs on the Zeus and Apollo that their ancestors worshipped, and turned instead to mathematics and philosophy for an understanding of the world. Because of their efforts, the sun set on mythology and rose on epistemology.   

One Greek scholar who visited Egypt was Pythagoras. I imagine Pythagoras dressed in a well-worn, dirt-stained tunic, footsore and tanned, pouring over mathematical scrolls in an Egyptian library. He must have been amazed at the abundance of their accumulated knowledge.  How excited he must have been to discover so many mathematical texts. He was certainly anxious to bring that knowledge back home to Greece and share it with others. That is exactly what he did.

I wonder if Pythagoras noticed something while studying the ancient Egyptian records. I wonder if he noticed that none of their mathematical records predate what we call 1800 BC. If he did notice, maybe he approached an Egyptian librarian and whispered, “Uh, excuse me Abubakar. Do you happen to have any math scrolls that were written before 1800 BC? I searched the scrolls in the math section over there and found none that were written prior to 1800 BC. Was there are fire or something?”

The oldest mathematical texts in Egypt date back to 1800 BC. Mathematical texts prior to that period apparently do not exists. Yet Egyptologists have found plenty of other texts much older than 1800 BC.

What happened? Did Egyptian kids get tired of studying mathematics and create an uprising in which they smashed all the math texts? My nimble imagination has a difficult time conjuring up an image of Egyptian youth dancing around a large fire as they toss math clay tablets into the flames.     
The reason we have not found math texts predating 1800 BC is because there were none. You can only write about that which you know. Prior to 1800 BC, Egyptians did not know very much about mathematics, other than the basics. Apparently there was no advanced mathematical knowledge that needed to be recorded; nothing that needed to be passed down from generation to generation. Mathematically speaking, there wasn’t anything worthy of preservation.

All that changed when a traveler named Abraham wandered into Egypt around 1800 BC. According to Josephus and the Prophet Joseph Smith, Abraham shared his knowledge of mathematics with the Egyptians. He did not just share the basics. He shared advanced mathematical knowledge worthy of preservation. This is why the archeological record repeatedly produces mathematical texts that were written after 1800 BC. With Abraham, the Egyptians finally had something worth writing about, mathematically speaking.     

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