Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Ancient Egyptian medicine was arguably the most advanced of its time. Natural and supernatural remedies were used together by practitioners/priests in order to cure injury, illness, and disease. Evidence of different diagnoses and treatments have been found on numerous papyri, giving details of both natural and supernatural cures for different ailments. These texts were organized from sections of the body, or focused on one form of treatment. Some of the most known of these are the Edwin Smith Papyrus describing cases of surgical procedures, the Ebers Papyrus which contains multiple natural remedies along with incantations, and the Domotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden describing incantations and magical processes (which show similarities to Greek papyri).

From symptoms, a diagnoses was found in order to treat ailments with natural treatments. Depending on the diagnoses numerous remedies would have been used. Medications were herbal/plant, mineral, or animal based. Castor oil was a very popular remedy for many ailments of all types. Honey was also used often, especially for wounds as a natural antiseptic. Some remedies were used domestically as pesticides to ward off insects and animals. Cosmetic remedies were also used to rid wrinkles, etc.  Surgical procedures were not used often, only for broken bones, large wounds, circumcision, abscesses, and of course at death during the removal of organs for mummification. All surgical procedures also included medicines an most likely incantations as well.

Along with natural remedies, the supernatural was equally important. ‘Magic’ (tied more closely to religion) and medicine were effective together in order to heal, which is why practitioners/doctors were also priests. Incantations are extremely prominent and go hand in hand with treatments of all types, which is prominent especially in the Ebers Papyrus. Amulets were also used and worn for protection against illness.  Invocations gods such as Isis and other rituals are also noted to heal or ward off sickness, similar to ancient Greek practices.


 

References:

  • Bryan, Cyril P., and Heinrich Joachim. The Papyrus Ebers. London: Bles, 1930. The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <http://oilib.uchicago.edu/books/bryan_the_papyrus_ebers_1930.pdf>.
  • Griffith, Francis Llewelyn, and Henry Francis Herbert Thompson. The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden. London: Grevel, 1904. ETANA. ETANA. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <http://www.etana.org/sites/default/files/coretexts/15139.pdf>.
  • Unknown. “The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus.” Tour Egypt. Tour Egypt, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.touregypt.net%2Fedwinsmithsurgical.htm%23Index%20%20of%20Cases>.
  • Unknown. “Ancient Egyptian MedicineIn Sickness and in Health: Preventative and Curative Health Care.” Ancient Egypt: Medicine. Unkown, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/medicine.htm>.

One thought on “Ancient Egyptian Medicine

  1. I think the option to write about Egyptian overall medicine was attention grabbing. I feel it was a different approach to medicine, as many of us tend to write only about mummification. I was really interested in the ending off your blog where you tied in Greeks and how they share common medical treatments. I do however wish you would have put a little more effort into describing who Edwin Smith was and why he was important during this time. Other than Edwin you put nice details on how and why certain procedures were taken. You also fully explained the individual roles on both natural and supernatural treatment and how they tie in with each other. Overall I think you could have put a bit more importance on the magical side of healing, as to give an example of a magical thing they did during these procedures.
    I did however gain a lot of insight as to how they practiced medicine and how it relates to our era of medicine. Knowing that back then people were still looking for ways to stay young looking and beautiful, additionally seeing how we re still today trying to find new ways. I then noted how in today era we don’t really relay on the supernatural ways of cure as much as natural.

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