CAIRO – 16 November 2022: Ancient Egyptians could perform highly sophisticated medical practices that confirm their advancement in medicine.
There are 13 medical papyrus manuscripts from the era of the Pharaohs that give an accurate description of the pathological conditions, as well as some prescriptions and drugs for treatment. Also, the famous Kahun Papyri mentions topics of veterinary treatment.
The translation of the Rosetta Stone allowed the translation of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions and papyri, including the Ebers Papyrus, the Edwin Smith Papyrus, the Hearst Papyrus, the London Medical Papyrus and others dating back to 2900 BC.
Written around 1600 BC, the Edwin Smith Papyrus was named after the merchant who bought it in 1862. It is the oldest known treatise on surgery, detailing anatomical observations, and the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of many diseases. However, it is considered a copy of several earlier texts.
The medical information contained in Edwin Smith Papyrus dates back to before 3000 BC and is therefore seen as an educational guide. Treatments consist of ointments made from animal or plant materials, fruits or minerals and there is evidence that oral surgery was performed as early as the Fourth Dynasty (2900-2750 BC).
Meanwhile, the Ebers Papyrus, written around 1550 BC, contains 877 recipes for a variety of ailments. Some of them include “magical” cures, because Egyptian beliefs regarding magic and medicine were often intertwined. It also contains documents revealing an awareness of the nature of tumors along with instructions on removing a tumor.
As for the Kahun Papyrus, it addresses women's complaints, including pregnancy problems, and dates back to 1800 BC. It is the oldest surviving medical text of any kind.
There are other documents such as the Hearst Papyrus written in 1450 BC and the Berlin Papyrus dating back to 1200 BC that also provide valuable information on ancient Egyptian medicine.