Ancient Egyptian Medicine

.. le from the Fourth Dynasty that indicates that there was an attempt to drill a hole in one of the teeth. Possibly the first prosthesis was found in 1929 in Giza where two teeth were found with gold wire fixed to the teeth. Also they have found several mummies with artificial teeth. The study of several mummies indicates poor teeth condition. This can be attributed to the lack of nutrition, mostly lower class citizens.

In the Papyrus Ebers, they found parts of a dental monograph titled “The Beginning of Remedies for Stronger Teeth.” Carious teeth were treated with a mixture of ocher, flour, spelt, and honey. Fillings were made out of a combination of malachite and resin. The Ancient Egyptian doctors and physicians used many types of natural resources to cure patients. In one case it was discovered that they used the electrical charge of the Malapterusus electricus, a close relative of the electric eel, was used to cure certain kinds of pain. To cure the gout, the patient would step on the electric eel, then place the other foot on a wet beach then wait until the leg is numb up to the knee.

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But the electric eels charges were too week to cure some ailments so the used the organs of some fish that produced electrical charges. At first history believed that the first case of leeches being used for medical purposes was in 135 AD by the Greek Nikandros. He described that the leeches were placed on the body and would clear out blood and congested fluids. They now know that 2,000 years earlier, this procedure was common in Egypt. They do not know how this was done, whether they actually cut open the vein with a knife, or used some other method. Their remedies are not all that different from our own. They used various kinds of pills, potions, pouttices, suppositories, and plasters.

They had the knowledge to prevent wounds and cure many types of animal bites such as the crocodile. The doctors and physicians would suggest moldy bread to prevent blisters, intestinal diseases, and suppurating wounds. They developed a cure for the cough that goes as follows: pieces of plant and mineral substances should be heated on hot stones. A pot with a hole bored into it should be put on top of this and a pipe should be put into the hole. The patient must “swallow” the herbal steam seven times. And because the mouth dries out, it should be rinsed out with oil.

Archaeologists have discovered many papyrus, but some containing more information then others. The most famous of these is the Papyrus Ebers. It was found by an Arab in Luxor who discovered it while excavating a tomb. He demanded a large sum of money for the purchase, so with the financial support of a friend, George Ebers purchased the Papyrus. They dated back to the period between 1553-1550 BC. It was a collection of texts from the Old Empire that gave instructions on how to cure wounds, fractures, dislocations, and many other types of illnesses. They described how to treat fractures, they would use splints bound with bandages.

When the Papyrus Ebers was written, Egypt was at its highest medical achievement. Historians can come to the conclusion that the papyrus belonged to the Pharaoh Amenhotep (1557-1501 BC) . It is the most accurate account of early Egyptian medicine ever written. At this time medicine was much freer of magic then before. It is used as the founding book of knowledge for ancient Egyptian medicine.

Much of the contents of the papyrus, deal with constipation, giving several effective cures that in some parts of the world, are still used today. The Papyrus Ebers consisted of 108 columns divided into forty-five groups. The second group for example would describe various kinds of laxatives, while group four describes stomach ailments. The texts contained in the Papyrus Ebers are difficult to understand, and there are many unknown terms used within. One of the most famous ancient doctors is Imhotep. He was a great privilege to have as a Pharaoh.

He worked in the court of the pharaoh Khasekhem. When he was finished, he turned to the speechless women and said, on these wounds, compresses of fresh meat must be applied and new ones must be reapplied five times daily. After this, the patient should drink milk mixed with beef gall bladder… This is an exert from Pierre Montalauers book about Imhotep. It refers to the ordeal of the birth of the great Pharaoh Djoser. After the deliverance, the queen of the Upper Egyptian capital, received a tear of the perineum. Imhotep quickly bandaged and stitched the wound. The exert is Imhotep giving the queen instructions to follow in order to let the wound heal properly. He saved the queen but around the same time his wife died giving birth to his son.

He then locked himself in with his wife for forty days to mummify her. This was the first recorded process of mummification known. He committed a large part of his life to Djoser the future Pharaoh. He played a major role in the court, was vizier to his king , he was a great architect and astrologist. In some legends it says that he ended the seven year drought by creating an elaborate system of irrigation, organizing fisheries, and he also preserved food.

Imhotep built the first pyramid in the world, the step mastaba of Saqara. It was erected over the resting place of Pharaohs wife who was buried in the Nile Delta. It is now known that Egyptian medicine contributed greatly to modern medicine. Many of the therapies used today are similar to those used in ancient Egyptian times such as the method of treating a fractured bone. They were the first to use electrotherapy to cure pain, and also have an understanding of what happened.

The first ever mummification was in Egypt and the process was used for centuries to come by all Egyptian peoples. With the discoveries of more and more papyrus, ancient Egyptians are now getting the credit they deserve for their contributions to modern medicine. Bibliography Atkinson, D.T. Magic, Myth and Medicine. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1956.

Dawson, Warren R. Ancient Egyptian Medicine. The Story of Medicine. New York: Golden Press, 1968. Stetter, Cornelius.

The Secret Medicine of the Pharaohs: Ancient Egyptian Healing. Carol Stream: Quintessence Publishing Company, 1993.