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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.
But Amelia Sparavigna, a physicist at Turin Polytechnic, suggests that it was a different architectural tool – a protractor. The key, she says, lies in the numbers encoded in the object's ornate decoration, which resembles a compass rose with 16 evenly spaced petals surrounded by a circular zigzag with 36 corners. Sparavigna says that if the straight bar part of the object were laid on a slope, a plumb line would revealed its inclination on the circular dial.
The fraction of one-sixteenth features in a calculus system the Egyptians used, says Sparavigna, and they also identified 36 star groups called the decans, which later formed the basis of a star clock. She suggests the object was "a protractor instrument with two scales, one based on Egyptian fractions, the other based on decans".
This statue shows Kha to be an honored servant, rather than a nobleman. He is standing with his left foot forward, a typical pose for officials, but is not carrying any of the tokens of office usually carried by officials; instead, he has his hands empty and palms facing back in a gesture of supplication. His wig is very fine, but his clothes are a simple kilt without the elaborate pleated overshirt favored by the nobility at this time.
Originally posted by Blackmarketeer
Seems most Egyptologists aren't on board with this idea. When they've made levels they integrated a string directly into the instrument.
For this protractor to work, you would have to dangle a string (held separately) and line it up with the center of the dial to get an accurate reading. That's a bit awkward. Why not follow their other examples of tools and integrate the string? Not that a lack of a string doesn't preclude it from being a protractor necessarily, for all we know this is a symbolic protractor buried with a famed mason or architect.
In the foreground, there are 4 wooden smoothers or irons for papyrus or perhaps pestles to grind pigments and a wooden instrument, perhaps a balance.
But, the use of 1/16 fraction, the coincidence of the number of corners with that of decans, and the fact that the decoration was engraved on the instrument of an architect, suggest me that this object had been used as a protractor instrument with two scales, one based on Egyptian fractions, the other based on decans.
One of the objects from the Kha's Tomb, Egyptian Museum of Torino, is supposed to be the case of a balance scale (see Fig.1), or the scale itself. This is what we read from the label. In a previous preparation of the items of Kha's Tomb, it was possible to see the front and back of the object (see Fig.2). They are the same, with the same complex decoration. In my opinion, this decoration had a functional use too, may be as a protractor, to determine directions.
Originally posted by DrZrD
reply to post by anon72
To me it looks like a device for removing the curl from a rolled drawing so it will lay flat on a table. The round center part is the handle and the long bar with the gentle curve would be pressed against the paper to be straightened.
Originally posted by Kandinsky
reply to post by anon72
I wonder if it was a form of protractor that was used to calculate gradients of land or elevations?
The AE used channels of water as we use spirit-levels. If the object floats, perhaps it was floated on the surface and then used to estimate angles of elevation?