Ancient Egyptian medicine

Ancient Egyptian medicine

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The medicine of the ancient Egyptians
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

is some of the oldest documented. From the beginnings of the civilization in the until the Persian
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 invasion of 525 BC, Egyptian medical practice went largely unchanged and was highly advanced for its time, including simple non-invasive surgery
Surgery
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

, setting of bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

s and an extensive set of pharmacopoeia
Pharmacopoeia
Pharmacopoeia, pharmacopeia, or pharmacopoea, , in its modern technical sense, is a book containing directions for the identification of samples and the preparation of compound medicines, and published by the authority of a government or a medical or pharmaceutical society.In a broader sense it is...

. Egyptian medical thought influenced later traditions, including the Greeks.

Sources of information



Until the 19th century, the main sources of information about ancient Egyptian medicine were writings from later in antiquity. Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

  remarked in the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

: "In Egypt, the men are more skilled in medicine than any of human kind" and "the Egyptians were skilled in medicine more than any other art". The Greek historian Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 visited Egypt around 440 BC
440 BC
Year 440 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Macerinus and Lanatus...

 and wrote extensively of his observations of their medicinal practices. Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 also wrote favourably of them in historical review. Hippocrates
Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

 (the "father of medicine"), Herophilos
Herophilos
Herophilos , sometimes Latinized Herophilus , was a Greek physician. Born in Chalcedon, he spent the majority of his life in Alexandria. He was the first scientist to systematically perform scientific dissections of human cadavers and is deemed to be the first anatomist. Herophilos recorded his...

, Erasistratus
Erasistratus
Erasistratus was a Greek anatomist and royal physician under Seleucus I Nicator of Syria. Along with fellow physician Herophilus, he founded a school of anatomy in Alexandria, where they carried out anatomical research...

 and later Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 studied at the temple of Amenhotep
Amenhotep
Amenhotep was an ancient Egyptian name. Its Greek version is Amenophis. Its notable bearers were:-Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty:*Amenhotep I*Amenhotep II*Amenhotep III*Amenhotep IV -Princes:...

, and acknowledged the contribution of ancient Egyptian medicine to Greek medicine.

In 1822, the translation of the Rosetta stone
Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek...

 finally allowed the translation of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions and papyri, including many related to medical matters (Egyptian medical papyri). The resultant interest in Egyptology
Egyptology
Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the AD 4th century. A practitioner of the discipline is an “Egyptologist”...

 in the 19th century led to the discovery of several sets of extensive ancient medical documents, including the Ebers papyrus
Ebers papyrus
The Ebers Papyrus, also known as Papyrus Ebers, is an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to circa 1550 BC. Among the oldest and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt, it was purchased at Luxor, in the winter of 1873–74 by Georg Ebers...

, the Edwin Smith Papyrus
Edwin Smith papyrus
The Edwin Smith Papyrus is an Ancient Egyptian medical text and the oldest known surgical treatise on trauma. It dates to Dynasties 16-17 of the Second Intermediate Period in Ancient Egypt, ca. 1500 BCE. The Edwin Smith papyrus is unique among the four principal medical papyri in existencethat...

, the Hearst Papyrus
Hearst papyrus
The Hearst Papyrus, also called the Hearst Medical Papyrus, is one of the medical papyri of ancient Egypt. It was named after the mother of press magnate William Randolph Hearst. The papyrus contains 18 pages of medical prescriptions written in hieratic Egyptian writing, concentrating on treatments...

, the London Medical Papyrus
London Medical Papyrus
The London Medical Papyrus is an Ancient Egyptian papyrus in the British Museum, London, England. The writings of this papyrus are of 61 recipes, of which 25 are classified as medical the remainder are of magic. The medical foci of the writing are skin complaints, eye complaints, bleeding and burns...

 and others dating back as far as 3000 BC. The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a textbook on surgery and details anatomical observations and the "examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis" of numerous ailments. It was probably written around 1600 BC, but is regarded as a copy of several earlier texts. Medical information in it dates from as early as 3000 BC. Imhotep
Imhotep
Imhotep , fl. 27th century BC was an Egyptian polymath, who served under the Third Dynasty king Djoser as chancellor to the pharaoh and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis...

 in the 3rd dynasty
Third dynasty of Egypt
For the Sumerian Renaissance, see Third Dynasty of Ur.The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the first dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Other dynasties of the Old Kingdom include the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth...

 is credited as the original author of the papyrus text, and founder of ancient Egyptian medicine. The earliest known surgery
Surgery
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

 was performed in Egypt
History of Ancient Egypt
The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

 around 2750 BC.

The Ebers papyrus
Ebers papyrus
The Ebers Papyrus, also known as Papyrus Ebers, is an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to circa 1550 BC. Among the oldest and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt, it was purchased at Luxor, in the winter of 1873–74 by Georg Ebers...

  is full of incantations and foul applications meant to turn away disease-causing demons, and also includes 877 prescriptions. It may also contain the earliest documented awareness of tumor
Tumor
A tumor or tumour is commonly used as a synonym for a neoplasm that appears enlarged in size. Tumor is not synonymous with cancer...

s, if the poorly understood ancient medical terminology has been correctly interpreted. Other information comes from the images that often adorn the walls of Egyptian tombs and the translation of the accompanying inscriptions. Advances in modern medical technology also contributed to the understanding of ancient Egyptian medicine. Paleopathologist
Paleopathology
Paleopathology, also spelled palaeopathology, is the study of ancient diseases. It is useful in understanding the past history of diseases, and uses this understanding to predict its course in the future.- History of paleopathology :...

s were able to use X-Ray
X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

s and later CAT Scans to view the bones and organs of mummies
Mummy
A mummy is a body, human or animal, whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme coldness , very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs, so that the recovered body will not decay further if kept in cool and dry...

. Electron microscope
Electron microscope
An electron microscope is a type of microscope that uses a beam of electrons to illuminate the specimen and produce a magnified image. Electron microscopes have a greater resolving power than a light-powered optical microscope, because electrons have wavelengths about 100,000 times shorter than...

s, mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles.It is used for determining masses of particles, for determining the elemental composition of a sample or molecule, and for elucidating the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and...

 and various forensic techniques allowed scientists unique glimpses of the state of health in Egypt 4000 years ago.

Other documents as the Edwin Smith papyrus
Edwin Smith papyrus
The Edwin Smith Papyrus is an Ancient Egyptian medical text and the oldest known surgical treatise on trauma. It dates to Dynasties 16-17 of the Second Intermediate Period in Ancient Egypt, ca. 1500 BCE. The Edwin Smith papyrus is unique among the four principal medical papyri in existencethat...

 (1550 BC), Hearst papyrus
Hearst papyrus
The Hearst Papyrus, also called the Hearst Medical Papyrus, is one of the medical papyri of ancient Egypt. It was named after the mother of press magnate William Randolph Hearst. The papyrus contains 18 pages of medical prescriptions written in hieratic Egyptian writing, concentrating on treatments...

 (1450 BC), and Berlin papyrus
Berlin papyrus
The Berlin Papyrus 6619, commonly known as the Berlin Papyrus, is an ancient Egyptian papyrus document from the Middle Kingdom. This papyrus was found at the ancient burial ground of Saqqara in the early 19th century CE....

 (1200 BC) also provide valuable insight into ancient Egyptian medicine. The Edwin Smith papyrus for example mentioned research methods, the making of a diagnosis of the patient, and the setting of a treatment. It is thus viewed as a learning manual. Treatments consisted of ailments made from i.e. animal, vegetable or fruit substances or minerals.

Nutrition


Fundamentally when considering the health of any culture nutrition must be discussed. The Ancient Egyptians were at least partially aware of the importance of diet, both in balance and moderation. Owing to Egypt's great endowment of fertile land food production was never a major issue although of course no matter how bounteous the land paupers and starvation still exist. The main crops for most of ancient Egyptian history were emmer wheat and barley. Consumed in the form of loaves which were produced in a variety of types through baking and fermentation, with yeast greatly enriching the nutritional value of the product, one farmer's crop could support an estimated twenty adults. Barley was also used in beer. Vegetables and fruits of many types were widely grown. Oil was produced from the linseed plant and there was a limited selections of spices and herbs. Meat (sheep, goats, pigs, wild game) was regularly available to at least the upper classes and fish were widely consumed, although there is evidence of prohibitions during certain periods against certain types of animal products; Herodotus wrote of the pig as being 'unclean'. Offerings to King Unas (c. 2494–2345 BC) were recorded as

“...milk, three kinds of beer, five kinds of wine, ten loaves, four of bread, ten of cakes four meats, different cuts, joints, roast, spleen, limb, breast, quail, goose, pigeon, figs, ten other fruits, three kinds of corn, barley, spelt, five kinds of oil, and fresh plants...”

It is clear that the Egyptian diet was not lacking for the upper classes and that even the lower classes may have had some selection (Nunn, 2002).

Practices



Medical knowledge in ancient Egypt had an excellent reputation, and rulers of other empires would ask the Egyptian pharaoh to send them their best physician to treat their loved ones. Egyptians had some knowledge of human anatomy
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

. For example, in the classic mummification
Mummy
A mummy is a body, human or animal, whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme coldness , very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs, so that the recovered body will not decay further if kept in cool and dry...

 process, mummifiers knew how to insert a long hooked implement through a nostril, breaking the thin bone of the brain case and remove the brain
Brain
The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals—only a few primitive invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, sea squirts and starfishes do not have one. It is located in the head, usually close to primary sensory apparatus such as vision, hearing,...

. They also must have had a general idea of the location in the body cavity of the inner organs, which they removed through a small incision in the left groin. But whether this knowledge was passed on to the practitioners of medicine is unknown and does not seem to have had any impact on their medical theories.

Egyptian physicians were aware of the existence of the pulse and of a connection between pulse and heart. The author of the Smith Papyrus even had a vague idea of a cardiac system, although not of blood circulation and he was unable, or deemed it unimportant, to distinguish between blood vessels, tendons, and nerves. They developed their theory of "channels" that carried air, water and blood to the body by analogies with the River Nile; if it became blocked, crops became unhealthy and they applied this principle to the body: If a person was unwell, they would use laxatives to unblock the "channels".

Quite a few medical practices were effective, such as many of the surgical procedures given in the Edwin Smith papyrus. Mostly, the physicians' advice for staying healthy was to wash and shave the body, including under the arms, and this may have prevented infections. They also advised patients to look after their diet, and avoid foods such as raw fish or other animals considered to be unclean.

Many practices were ineffective or harmful. Michael D. Parkins says that 72% of 260 medical prescriptions in the Hearst Papyrus had no known curative elements, and many contained animal dung which contains products of fermentation and molds, some of them having curative properties, but also bacteria posing a grave threat of infection.

Surgery


Surgery was a common practice among physicians as treatment for physical injuries. The Egyptian physicians recognized three categories of injuries; treatable, contestable, and untreatable ailments. Treatable ailments the surgeons would quickly set to right. Contestable ailments were those where the victim could presumably survive without treatment, so patients assumed to be in this category were observed and if they survived then surgical attempts could be made to fix them. Surgical tools uncovered in archaeological sites have included knives, hooks, drills, forceps and pinchers, scales, spoons, saws and a vase with burning incense.

Circumcision
Circumcision
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....

 of males was the norm, as stated by Herodotus in his Histories
Histories (Herodotus)
The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that...

. Though its performance as a procedure was rarely mentioned, the uncircumcised nature of other cultures was frequently noted, the uncircumcised nature of the Liberians was frequently referenced and military campaigns brought back uncircumcised phalli as trophies, which suggests novelty. Although other records describe initiates into the religious orders as involving circumcision which would imply that the practice was special and not widespread. The only known depiction of the procedure, in the The Tomb of the Physician, burial place of Ankh-Mahor at Saqquarra, shows adolescents or adults, not babies. Female circumcision may have been practiced, although the single reference to it in ancient texts may be a mistranslation.

Prosthetics, such as artificial toes and eyeballs, were also used; typically, they served little more than decorative purposes. In preparation for burial, missing body parts would be replaced (but these do not appear as if they would have been useful, or even attachable) before death.

The extensive use of surgery, mummification practices, and autopsy as a religious exercise gave Egyptians a vast knowledge of the body's morphology, and even a considerable understanding of organ functions.(Minnesota State University). The function of most major organs were correctly presumed —for example, blood was correctly guessed to be a transpiration medium for vitality and waste which is not to far from its actual role in carrying oxygen and removing carbon dioxide— with the exception of the heart and brain whose functions were switched.

Dentistry


Dentistry was an important field, as an independent profession it dated from the early third millennium BC, although it may not have never been prominent. The Egyptian diet was high in abrasives (such as sand left over from grinding grain) and so the condition of their teeth was quite poor, although archaeologists have noted a steady decrease in severity and incidence of worn teeth throughout 4000 BC to 1000 AD, probably due to improved grain grinding techniques. All Egyptian remains have sets of teeth in quite poor states. Dental disease could even be fatal, such as for Djedmaatesankh, a musician from Thebes, who died around the age of thirty five from extensive dental disease and a large infected cyst. If an individual's teeth escaped being worn down, cavities were rare, due to the rarity of sweeteners. Dental treatment was infective and the best sufferers could hope for was the quick loss of an infected tooth. The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq
Instruction of Ankhsheshonq
The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq is an Ancient Egyptian papyrus that has been tentativly dated to the Ptolemaic period, although the content may be earlier in origin. It contains and introductory narrative and a list of maxims on many topics, its style has been described as pragmatic and humorous...

 contains the maxim "There is no tooth that rots yet stays in place". No records document the hastening of this process and no tools suited for the extraction of teeth have been found, though some remains show sign of forced tooth removal. Replacement teeth have been found, although it is not clear whether they are just post-mortem cosmetics. Extreme pain might have been medicated with opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

.

Magic and religion


Magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

 and religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 were an integral part of everyday life in ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

. Evil gods
Egyptian mythology
Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals which were an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians' interaction with a multitude of deities who were believed to be present in, and in control of, the forces and elements of nature...

 and demon
Demon
call - 1347 531 7769 for more infoIn Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered an "unclean spirit" which may cause demonic possession, to be addressed with an act of exorcism...

s were thought to be responsible for many ailments, so often the treatments involved a supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 element, such as beginning treatment with an appeal to a deity. There does not appear to have existed a clear distinction between what nowadays one would consider the very distinct callings of priest and physician. The healers, many of them priests of Sekhmet
Sekhmet
In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet , was originally the warrior goddess as well as goddess of healing for Upper Egypt. She is depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. It was said that her breath created the desert...

, often used incantation
Incantation
An incantation or enchantment is a charm or spell created using words. An incantation may take place during a ritual, either a hymn or prayer, and may invoke or praise a deity. In magic, occultism, witchcraft it may be used with the intention of casting a spell on an object or a person...

s and magic as part of treatment.

The widespread belief in magic and religion may have resulted in a powerful placebo effect
Placebo effect
Placebo effect may refer to:* Placebo effect, the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work...

; that is, the perceived validity of the cure may have contributed to its effectiveness. The impact of the emphasis on magic is seen in the selection of remedies or ingredients for them. Ingredients were sometimes selected seemingly because they were derived from a substance, plant or animal that had characteristics which in some way corresponded to the symptoms of the patient. This is known as the principle of simila similibus ("similar with similar") and is found throughout the history of medicine up to the modern practice of homeopathy
Homeopathy
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners claim to treat patients using highly diluted preparations that are believed to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms that are similar to those exhibited by the patient...

. Thus an ostrich
Ostrich
The Ostrich is one or two species of large flightless birds native to Africa, the only living member of the genus Struthio. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a...

 egg is included in the treatment of a broken skull, and an amulet
Amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

 portraying a hedgehog
Hedgehog
A hedgehog is any of the spiny mammals of the subfamily Erinaceinae and the order Erinaceomorpha. There are 17 species of hedgehog in five genera, found through parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand . There are no hedgehogs native to Australia, and no living species native to the Americas...

 might be used against baldness
Baldness
Baldness implies partial or complete lack of hair and can be understood as part of the wider topic of "hair thinning". The degree and pattern of baldness can vary greatly, but its most common cause is male and female pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, alopecia androgenetica or...

.

Amulets in general were very popular, being worn for many magical purposes. Health related amulets are classified as homeopoetic, phylactic and theophoric. Homeopoetic amulets portray an animal or part of an animal, from which the wearer hopes to gain positive attributes like strength or speed. Phylactic amulets protected against harmful gods and demons. The famous Eye of Horus
Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health. The eye is personified in the goddess Wadjet...

 was often used on a phylactic amulet. Theophoric amulets represented Egyptian gods; one represented the girdle
Girdle
A girdle is a garment that encircles the lower torso, perhaps extending below the hips, and worn often for support. The word girdle originally meant a belt. In modern English, the term girdle is most commonly used for a form of women's foundation wear that replaced the corset in popularity...

 of Isis
Isis
Isis or in original more likely Aset is a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic...

 and was intended to stem the flow of blood at miscarriage. They were often made of bone, hanging from a leather strap.

Doctors and other healers



The ancient Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 word for doctor is "wabau". This title has a long history. The earliest recorded physician in the world, Hesy-Ra
Hesy-Ra
Hesy-Ra was an official, physician and scribe who lived during the Third dynasty of Egypt, served under the pharaoh Djoser, and was buried in an elaborate tomb at Saqqara...

, practiced in ancient Egypt
History of Ancient Egypt
The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

. He was “Chief of Dentists and Physicians” to King Djoser
Djoser
Netjerikhet or Djoser is the best-known pharaoh of the Third dynasty of Egypt. He commissioned his official, Imhotep, to build the first of the pyramids, a step pyramid for him at Saqqara...

, who ruled in the 27th century BC. The lady Peseshet
Peseshet
Peseshet, who lived under the Fourth Dynasty, is often credited with being the earliest known female physician in ancient Egypt, though another, Merit Ptah lived earlier. Her title was "lady overseer of the female physicians," but whether she was a physician herself is uncertain...

 (2400 BC) may be the first recorded female doctor: she was possibly the mother of Akhethotep, and on a stela dedicated to her in his tomb she is referred to as imy-r swnwt, which has been translated as “Lady Overseer of the Lady Physicians” (swnwt is the feminine of swnw).

There were many ranks and specializations in the field of medicine. Royalty employed their own swnw, even their own specialists. There were inspectors of doctors, overseers and chief doctors. Known ancient Egyptian specialists are ophthalmologist, gastroenterologist
Gastroenterology
Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine whereby the digestive system and its disorders are studied. The name is a combination of three Ancient Greek words gaster , enteron , and logos...

, proctologist, dentist
Dentist
A dentist, also known as a 'dental surgeon', is a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. The dentist's supporting team aides in providing oral health services...

, "doctor who supervises butcher
Butcher
A butcher is a person who may slaughter animals, dress their flesh, sell their meat or any combination of these three tasks. They may prepare standard cuts of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish for sale in retail or wholesale food establishments...

s" and an unspecified "inspector of liquids". The ancient Egyptian term for proctologist, neru phuyt, literally translates as "shepherd of the anus".

Institutions, so called Houses of Life, are known to have been established in ancient Egypt since the 1st Dynasty
First dynasty of Egypt
The first dynasty of Ancient Egypt is often combined with the Dynasty II under the group title, Early Dynastic Period of Egypt...

 and may have had medical functions, being at times associated in inscriptions with physicians, such as Peftauawyneit and Wedjahorresnet living in the middle of the first millennium BC. By the time of the 19th Dynasty
Nineteenth dynasty of Egypt
The Nineteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt was one of the periods of the Egyptian New Kingdom. Founded by Vizier Ramesses I, whom Pharaoh Horemheb chose as his successor to the throne, this dynasty is best known for its military conquests in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria.The warrior kings of the...

 their employees enjoyed such benefits as medical insurance, pensions and sick leave
Sick leave
Sick leave is time off from work that workers can use during periods of temporary illness to stay home and address their health and safety needs without losing pay. Some workplaces offer paid sick time as a matter of workplace policy, and in few jurisdictions it is codified into law...

.

See also

  • Ancient Greek medicine
  • Medicine in ancient Rome
    Medicine in ancient Rome
    Medicine in ancient Rome combined various techniques using different tools and rituals. Ancient Roman medicine included a number of specializations such as internal medicine, ophthalmology and urology...

  • Medicine in medieval Islam

Further reading


English
  • Ancient Egyptian Medicine, John F. Nunn, 1996
  • The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A medical History of Humanity, Roy Porter, 1997
  • A History of Medicine, Lois N. Magner, 1992
  • Medicine in the Days of the Pharaohs, Bruno Halioua, Bernard Ziskind, M. B. DeBevoise (Translator), 200
  • Pharmacological practices of ancient Egypt, Michael D. Parkins, 10th Annual Proceedings of the History of Medicine Days, 2001
  • A comparative study of urban and rural tetanus in adults, Mamtani R, Malhotra P, Gupta PS, Jain BK., 1978
  • Pain, Stephanie. (2007). "The pharaohs' pharmacists." New Scientist. 15 December 2007, pp. 40–43


French
  • Ange Pierre Leca, La Médecine égyptienne au temps des Pharaons, éd. Dacosta, Paris, 1992 (ISBN 2-851-28-029-5)
  • Thierry Bardinet, Les papyrus médicaux de l'Égypte pharaonique, éd. Fayard, Paris, 1995 (ISBN 2-213-59280-2)
  • Richard-Alain Jean, À propos des objets égyptiens conservés du musée d’Histoire de la Médecine, éd. Université René Descartes – Paris V, coll. Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine de Paris, Paris, 1999 (ISBN 2-9508470-3-X)
  • Richard-Alain Jean, Anne-Marie Loyrette, À propos des textes médicaux des Papyrus du Ramesseum nos III et IV, I : la reproduction, in S.H. Aufrère (éd.), Encyclopédie religieuse de l’Univers végétal (ERUV – II), Montpellier, 2001, pp. 537–564 (ISBN 2-84269-502-6)
  • Richard-Alain Jean, Anne-Marie Loyrette, À propos des textes médicaux des Papyrus du Ramesseum nos III et IV, I : la contraception, in S.H. Aufrère (éd.), Encyclopédie religieuse de l’Univers végétal (ERUV – II), Montpellier, 2001, pp. 564–592 (ISBN 2-84269-502-6)
  • Bruno Halioua, La médecine au temps des Pharaons, éd. Liana Levi, coll. Histoire lieu, Paris, 2002 (ISBN 2-867-46-306-8)
  • Richard-Alain Jean, Anne-Marie Loyrette, À propos des textes médicaux des Papyrus du Ramesseum nos III et IV, I : la gynécologie (1), in S.H. Aufrère (éd.), Encyclopédie religieuse de l’Univers végétal (ERUV – III), Montpellier, 2005, pp. 351–487 (ISBN 2-84269-695-6)
  • Richard-Alain Jean, Anne-Marie Loyrette, La mère, l’enfant et le lait en Égypte Ancienne. Traditions médico-religieuses. Une étude de sénologie égyptienne, S.H. Aufrère (éd.), éd. L’Harmattan, coll. Kubaba – Série Antiquité – Université de Paris 1, Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris, 2010 (ISBN 978-2-296-13096-8)


German
  • Wolfhart Westendorf, Handburch der altägyptischen Medizin, éd. Brill, coll. HdO, Leiden, 1999 (Band 1 : ISBN 90-04-11320-7, Band II : ISBN 90-04-11321-5)

External links