The bizarre object to the right was found in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian architect. For over 100 years, it has languished while archaeologists debated its function.
Now, a physicist has thrown her hat into the ring, arguing that it is the world's first known protractor. The intriguing suggestion – which has drawn scepticism from archaeologists – is based on the numbers encoded within the carvings on its surface.
The architect Kha helped to build pharaohs' tombs during the 18th dynasty, around 1400 BC. His own tomb was discovered intact in 1906 by archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli in Deir-al-Medina, near the Valley of the Kings. Among Kha's belongings were measuring instruments including cubit rods, a levelling device that resembles a modern set square, and what appeared to be an oddly shaped empty wooden case with a hinged lid.
Monday, August 01, 2011
Egyptian tomb mystery may be world's first protractor
New Scientist (Jo Marchant)