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Ancient Creation Stories told by the Numbers

by H. Peter Aleff







   The hieroglyphic numeral sign sequence


 marked the making of numbers and world    


The ancient Egyptian numeral system
and the double creation story it tells

Sign list #

V  9

C  11

I  8

D  50

M  12

V  1

V  20

Z  1

Numeral for

All that is








Hieroglyphs from Gardiner's sign list, font by Inscribe

Picture of






Rope coil



Symbolic meaning

Eternity, protection

Beginning  creation

Birth+pro liferation

Crafting, counting

Sunrise, new life

Land sur- veying

Early shrine

Reality, people

Creation role

Form in chaos

First 2 + 8 = 10 gods

Many more gods

Command to create

Emerging land & life

Ordering the earth

Dwelling for god(s)

Living person

-ical role

Undivided One

First ten numbers

Other numbers

Start of counting

Decimal arithmetic

Geometry and order

Reflect the universe

Strive for divine truth

Ancient consistency

Ankh = S 34 sandal strap

Double rope circle and tangent line tie number and rope geometry into the original One that can divide.

In some ancient Egyptian hymns, Atum the creator god "made himself into millions".

Eight Heh gods often had frog heads. Tadpole is stage before frog grows "fingers".

Fingers make things or command them to be made, and fingers help in early counting.

Decimal system is based on ten fingers, or "digits". Cubing the base gives it body and existence.

 Geometry = "land measuring" developed from annual re- surveying re-emerged land with  ropes.

Rope- stretching ritual for  cosmos- mirroring layout preceded all temple building.

Proper  temple plus ritual drew down the gods and so contacted their eternity.

Place a "down- reaching" Shen-Ring above the upright stroke for "reality" and "people", and you get the "ankh", the double- rope symbol for "life" and "breath" as well as for "mirror" and for "tie, strap".  The shape- change of the Shen- Ring into a teardrop symbolizes this down- reaching which was the core of the pharaonic religion since the gods had to descend to earth to inhabit their statues and spread their blessings.  The joining of this shape with the stroke ties the upright human to heaven and so makes him or her alive, united with the up- pulling Shen-Ring that represents eternity and the god(s).


The simple symbolic equation at left thus sums up the ancient Egyptian's motivation for building the temples and tombs that became their hallmark and the driving force of their civilization:  It shows that the “ankh” sign for “Life” and “Breath” results from the proper relationship between the human, symbolized by the upright stroke for “one” which also meant “person” and “real”, and the spiritual realm shown as the “Shen-Ring” of eternity and divine protection.

That heavenly entity bends down to the up-reaching human, and both come together to form the “ankh”.  This fusion with the divine brings breath and life to the human, and it connects the eternal with tangible reality, as in the statues and temples which the Egyptians built for the gods to dwell in on earth, and which their representative the pharaoh upheld with each god’s rituals to receive and maintain that life

The numerals which connect these two components of "Life" form thus an orderly ladder between earth and heaven, many centuries before the biblical Jacob would dream of this vital link with the divine. 

The ancient Egyptian kings monopolized the role of the human in this life- giving and life- maintaining equation, and they used that role to power the pharaonic system for the more than three thousand years of its existence.  We can therefore say that this simple equation described and provided the motivation or energy for the cultural achievements of ancient Egypt, and that it functioned back then as an equivalent of the equally simple  E = mc2  which now describes and provides our energy and powers our civilization.

Moreover, both the Shen-Ring of "Eternity" and the Ankh sandal strap of "Life" were made from double rope, so the designer of these ingenious metaphors for describing the creation and essence of the world further anticipated the currently fashionable and equally all- encompassing string theory for the creation and underlying nature of that world. 

String theory has been called "mathematical theology" because the realms its authors postulate and describe are about sixteen orders of magnitude beyond any currently conceivable experimental verification.  Its ancient rope version falls in the same category, but its designer(s) and proponents deserve extra credit because they needed only five orders of magnitude beyond their first observable phenomenon, the emergence of sun and life, to fully account for the beginning of all. 

Also, the ancients tied the end of their sequence back to that beginning and so added a purpose to their creation, an achievement which the modern theorists have yet to match.


Read more about the signs that compose this series, or explore another ancient creation story told by the numbers -- the biblical account of Genesis One expressed as quasi- equations between constants with symbolic values that reflect their mathematical properties.




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