• When one thinks of the contribution Egypt has made to the world, the majority of thought wonders to those majestically erected monuments of stone.• However, Ancient Egypt has offered so much more. Homer in the Odyssey remarked,
The Medicine of the Ancient Egyptians • From the beginnings of the civilization in the c. 33rd century BC , Egyptian medical practice was highly advanced for its time, including simple non-invasive surgery, setting of bones and an extensive set of pharmacopoeia. • Egyptian medical thought influenced later traditions, including the Greeks.
Specialist Doctors and Physicians• Their were doctors who specialised in the head, eyes, ears, the stomach and fertility.• There were different levels of doctors in the medical profession.• The most senior physician in Egypt was the chief medical officer. There were inspectors of physicians who validated the working practises of doctors.
The Edwin Smith Papyrus documents ancientEgyptian medicine, including the diagnosis andtreatment of injuries
• The techniques employed in Ancient Egyptian medicine when dealing with wounds and injuries was documented in a papyrus first owned by a man named Edwin Smith. This has become known as the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus and is believed to date back to 1600BC.• The papyrus details a systematic approach to diagnosis describing 48 different types of fractures, dislocations and wounds.
Medical Examinations• - The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus also details the medical examination process• Patients were questioned at some length regarding their well being including details of their bodily functions.• A physician would examine a patient with gentleness and care using his senses of both smell and touch during the examination.
Ebers Papyrus treatment for cancer: recounting a "tumoragainst the god Xenus", it recommends "do thou nothingthere against An ancient Egyptian medical text dating back to 1550BC.
Diagnosis• Egyptian doctors were known to have documented hundreds of illnesses. These included ulcers, migraine, dermatological problems, dental conditions, diseases of the ear, nose, throat and digestive system and gynae conditions.• Papyrus revealed detailed knowledge of the digestion, nervous system and circulation. They were also skilled in various surgical techniques, medicine and injuries such as burns, wounds and infections.• The Egyptian doctors accompanied soldiers on their various military campaigns.
Ancient Egyptian Medicine• Medicine was well respected and Egyptian physicians were often sent to the courts of allies to offer treatments and cures to important political figures and members of royalty including the Kings of Persia.• The knowledge of medicine, anatomy and the working of the human was well established
Magic and Spells• Also part of Egyptian medicine were magic, charms, and spells. An Egyptian physician was also a magician and practised various rituals• The magic accompanied the remedies and were believed to be effective in ridding patients of evil spirits.
• photograph various medically-related subjects ranging from surgery and surgical instruments, to paintings showing actual pathology.• Perhaps the most ancient existing depictions of surgery are found in the Old Kingdom tomb of Ankh-Ma-Hor at Saqqara. Over 4000 years old, these reliefs depict surgical procedures on the toes and circumcision.
DISEASES OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN:• Fertility was diagnosed by placing garlic in the vagina for one night. If the next day the woman can taste or smell it in her mouth, she is fertile. This is based upon the connection between the genital parts and interior of the body. Such connection would be lost in a case of obstructed Fallopian tubes. In modern medicine HGS• Diagnosis of pregnancy and sex determination of the future child was based on the fact that pregnant urine germinates cereals more rapid then non-pregnant one. If the child was a male, the urine would germinate wheat, and if a female, it would geminate barley. The same tests have been used in Europe up till the Middle Ages.
• Delivery was performed in the squatting position, with the woman supporting her arms on knees and sitting on two bricks. Difficult labors were aided by burning resin, or massaging the abdomen by saffron powder and beer. Abortions were done by introduction of warm oil and fat in the vagina.
“Houses of birth” or “Mammisi” They were visited by pregnantwomen seeking help, rather than being a birth place
CONTRACEPTIONinsertion of crocodile oil, gum acacia or honey into the vagina. Gum acacia when dissolved produces lactic acid, a very effective known spermicidal.
Infants were breast fed for three years, and this was encouraged:“Nothing is more lawful than one’s mother milk”.Milk stimulants were resorted to, as mentioned in Ebers Papyrus:
INTERNAL MEDICINE: “Ebers Papyrus”• Angina• Cough• Joint pains• Brocheal asthma, constipation, diarrhea• Migraine was considered a special entity and needed special notice.
• Trepanning (making holes in the skull to relief pressure from within) was practiced in ancient Egypt. Numerous skulls at the faculty of medicine museum in Cairo show well- delineated circular holes in the frontal bones. Signs of perfect healing at the edges denote that the procedures were performed during life, and the patient survived enough time to allow healing. Examination of the overlying bone (and the scalp in a mummy) suggest that surgical procedures have been undertaken.
Jaw showing drill holes used in dental repairCourtesy of the Gordon Museum