Friday, October 28, 2011

Medical Care in Ancient Egypt

The Edwin Smith papyrus is the world's oldest known surgical document (c. 1600 BC). It is written in the hieratic script of ancient Egypt and Kush and reveals a high level of sophistication in medical care. It gives detailed descriptions of anatomy, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of forty-eight types of medical problems. It describes closing wounds with sutures, preventing and curing infection with honey and moldy bread (both known to contain antibiotics), application of raw meat to stop bleeding, and treatment of head and spinal cord injuries.

"Every month, for three successive days, they purged the system by means of emetics or clysters. The study of medicine with them was divided between specialists; each physician attending to one kind of illness only. Every place possessed several doctors; some for diseases of the eyes, others for the head, or the teeth, or the stomach, or for internal diseases." (Diodorus Siculus, i. 91)

This is the level of medical care known among the priestly caste when the children of Jacob were in Egypt.  Hieratic script was used by the ruler-priests. Healing was the work of the priests who were especially concerned with purity of life.

The priesthood can be traced back to around 7000 BC. The relationship between animal sacrifice and healing is evidence in the relationship of the following words: Hebrew root thr = to be pure, Hausa/Hahm toro = clean, Tamil tiru = holy, early Dravidian tor = blood.

Related reading: Nubians Used Antibiotics; Ebers Papyrus; The World's Oldest Books; Neolithic Medical Care; Dental Health of Ancient Sudanese; Archaic Humans Used Plants Medicinally

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