This research paper will examine the Ancient Egyptians use of surgery in their medical practices. Surgery was considered to be a part of general medicine in ancient Egypt, not a specialty as we consider it today. Almost all of the evidence that exhibits surgical procedures is related to trauma.
There are several bodies of text that illustrate the different types of surgical practices that occurring in ancient Egypt. The Edwin Smith papyrus is an instructional text for treatment of trauma in the upper half of the body. This text and the Ebers papyrus allow for a greater understanding of Ancient Egyptian surgical procedures; what types of aliments elicited the use of surgery to heal or what did not. These medical papyri include many references to “knife treatments” and the many different names that were used for the word knife in surgical procedures. There are also many examples of the surgical tools that were used to complete the operations, including needles that were used to stich the wounds closed after the surgery was completed. The analysis of these texts will be of great importance in learning more about the different types of Egyptians surgical practices.
This paper will on focusing on the several types of surgery that occurred during this time. Many of the types of surgery were listed in the book, Ancient Egyptian Medicine by John F. Nunn, including trephining, tracheostomy, and circumcision. I was surprised to learn that there may have been trephining occurring in ancient Egypt; the evidence is not clear on it occurring. There are no surviving papyri that mention trephining, but there are several examples on skeletons that trephining occurred. Circumcision practices are much more clear, because of the relief on the doorway into the tomb of Akh-ma-hor, who was the vizier of King Teti in the sixth dynasty. This relief shows the process of circumcision in specific detail of the process. Ann Macy Roth analyzed this relief in 1991 and proposed a new interpretation for the scene. She believes that circumcision was not conducted for medical purposes, but during in initiation ceremony into manhood or phyles. Something else that I found shocking is that there is not a single mention of any form of anesthesia for any surgical operations. Only alcohol was used to numb the senses during the procedures.
I would also like to focus on what techniques were used in ancient Egypt that differ from what occurs today. Some of the most common surgeries today did not occur in ancient Egyptian times, such as dental surgeries, eye surgeries and surgeries involving childbirth. I was intrigued to learn that no evidence has been uncovered that shows definitively that surgery was used in dental practices, not even on the pharaohs. The lack of surgery on eyes in this time is interesting, because eyes played such a major part of Egyptian mythology. Only topical medication was applied, and no mention of surgical intervention for any eye maladies has been discovered. This research paper will examine the Ancient Egyptians use of surgery in their medical practices. Surgery was considered to be a part of general medicine in ancient Egypt, not a specialty as we consider it today. Almost all of the evidence that exhibits surgical procedures is related to trauma.
In conclusion, this paper will focus on the various types of surgeries performed in ancient Egypt. It will also look into the other medical procedures that ancient Egyptians used to correct medical ailments that require surgery today.
Nunn, J. F. Ancient Egyptian Medicine. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1996. Print.
Nerlich, Andreas G. “Ancient Egyptian Prothesis of the Big Toe.” The Lancet 356 (2000): JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.
Leek, F. F. “The Practice of Dentistry in Ancient Egypt.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 53 (1967): JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.
Sipos, Péter, Hedvig Gyõry, Krisztina Hagymási, Pál Ondrejka, and Anna Blázovics. “Special Wound Healing Methods Used in Ancient Egypt and the Mythological Background.” World Journal of Surgery 28.2 (2004): 211-16: JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.