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Table of Contents
Ancient Egyptians believed that prayers could treat different diseases. Despite this, the Ancient Egyptian doctors had high knowledge in the medical field and could perform advanced medical practices.
See the fact file below for more information on Ancient Egyptian Medicine or alternatively, you can download our 36-page Ancient Egyptian Medicine worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Ancient Egyptian Medicine
- Ancient Egyptian doctors believed that when a person was sick, the cause of this was the gods, demons, or spirits.
- According to the physicians, channels in the body were blocked by spirits which makes the body unwell.
- They believed that they must unblock the channels by performing a mix of spiritual and natural cures.
- As they had this belief, most healers during that time were priests.
- For treatment, they usually performed incantations, used amulets, gave offerings, and provided aromas, tattoos, and prayers to drive away the spirit that caused their diseases.
- Shortly after, medicinal doctors flourished.
- Ancient Egyptians had developed their system of writing and counting numbers; thus, they were able to record Egyptian medical literature.
- As they had an organized and systematic civilization, medical research quickly developed.
- The Ebers Papyrus, written in around 1500 BCE, is considered the oldest medical document in existence.
- It contains over 700 prescriptions, and some remedies listed included magical cures as they believed that magic and medicine were often linked.
- The papyrus also contains incantations recited by the doctors before initiating treatment.
- It was their way of asking for help from the gods for healing.
- The Ebers Papyrus also documented information for scientific procedures like tumors and their removal.
- Other significant medical documentation include: Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus, Hearst Papyrus, Berlin Papyrus, Edwin Smith Papyrus, Ramesseum Medical Papyri, London Medical Papyrus, Carlsberg Papyrus, Leiden Papyrus, Erman Papyrus, Brooklyn Papyrus, Chester Beatty Medical Papyrus.
Ancient Egyptian Medical Treatments
- For the Ancient Egyptians, an injury resulted from a simple reason, while diseases were caused by sin or an evil force attacking the body.
- Diseases were then treated by incantations and magic spells.
- During this era, they already had various medical tools such as flints, scalpels, dental pliers, saws for bones, clamps, catheters, forceps, scissors, bandages, and even weighing scales for measuring ingredients in medicines.
- Some of their tools are still used today but are now more advanced.
- With the training they undertook, Ancient Egyptian physicians were capable of fixing bones and dislocated joints.
- They could also stitch wounds and close the skin of the wounded.
- For inflammation, they used bandages and plants.
- For males, circumcision was a practice.
- Prosthetics already existed but were often utilized as decorations or during burials to fill a missing body part.
- Ancient Egyptians practiced mummification, a process wherein the dead body is preserved.
- They also performed autopsies.
- Through this, the Ancient Egyptians were recognized to have a good understanding of human anatomy.
- The ancient Egyptian physicians classified injuries into treatable injuries, contestable injuries, and untreatable ailments.
- Treatable injuries – Injuries that they could treat quickly.
- Contestable injuries – Injuries said to be not life-threatening, so they assumed that the patient could survive even if no treatments were given. However, the doctor would still leave the patient under observation. If they could get through the injury, it was up to the doctor’s discretion to perform any surgery or treatment.
- Untreatable ailments – Doctors would not attempt to treat the patients.
- The field of dentistry was significant to the Ancient Egyptians.
- Dental problems were already common to the Ancient Egyptians, but only a few dentists were available.
- The food, most especially the bread prepared by the Ancient Egyptians, contained sand from grinding the grain and bits of rocks.
- Due to this unavoidable situation, their bread and other food were coarse, causing them dental problems.
Other Medical Practices
- The Ancient Egyptian physicians were already aware of the existence and connection of the pulse and the heart.
- The cardiac system was vaguely discussed in the Smith Papyrus.
- However, the author did not know about blood circulation, so disregarded the importance of the blood vessels, tendons, and nerves.
- They believed that the body was composed of a system of channels.
- According to doctors, the heart was the center of the channels.
- If these channels were blocked, they believed that it was due to the evil spirit, Wekhedu.
- Pus symbolized that Wekhedu had come to the surface of the body.
- There were different methods to know if a woman was pregnant.
- Ancient Egyptian doctors also advised different contraceptive methods. One method involved injecting honey and natro into the women’s private parts.
- Pregnancy could be determined by using a sample of barley and emmer.
- Women moistened it with their urine every day and believed that if the barley grew, the child would be a boy, while if the emmer grew, it would be a girl. If both plants failed to grow, the woman was not pregnant.
- A remedy for headaches combined flour, incense, waneb plant, the wood of wa, a horn of a stag, sycamore seeds, mason’s plaster, mint, water, and seeds of zart and applied it on the head.
- oo treat colds, Ancient Egyptian physicians performed incantations.
- A fractured skull was treated with Ostrich eggs.
- Ancient Egyptians were all aware of the importance of diet and cleanliness.
- They were highly expected to wash and shave their bodies to avoid infections.
- For their diet, they were told not to eat unclean animals and raw fish.
- Mummification became a significant custom for the Ancient Egyptians.
- They performed this tradition because they believed it could help the dead have a good life in the afterworld.
- The body preserved is called a mummy, while the process is called mummification.
- The process was often availed by the nobles because it was costly.
- Embalming the body took about 70 days for the embalmer to finish the process.
- The chief embalmer, Hery Seshta, wore the mask of a jackal to represent the mummification God, Anubis.
- First, clean the body by washing it.
- Insert a hook through the nose to remove the brain from the cranium.
- Make an incision on the left side of the body and remove all the internal organs, leaving the heart.
- Dry the internal organs and store the liver, intestines, stomach, and liver in the canopic jars.
- With wine, herbs, and spices, cleanse the inside of the body and dry by covering it with natron. Natron or salt is a substance that can absorb moisture in the body.
- Leave the body in natron for 70 days.
- After 40 days, fill the body with stuffing such as linen, sand, or sawdust for it to take shape.
- Wrap the whole body with linen strands or shrouds after 70 days.
- Finally, put the mummy inside the sarcophagus or stone coffin.
Ancient Egyptian Medical Doctors
- Both males and females were accepted as physicians in Ancient Egypt.
- The famous architect, Imhotep, was considered the first physician and was worshipped as the god of medicine and healing.
- He argued that diseases occurred naturally and were not god-given punishments.
- Peseshet was also a famous female physician and labeled the “Lady Overseer of Female Physicians”.
- Doctors were often referred to as “wabau” which means ritually pure.
- They were expected to bathe regularly and carefully.
- General practitioners were often called “swnw” while those who specialized in the use of magic were referred to as “sau”.
- Those who assisted the doctors were the midwives, masseurs, nurses, attendants, and seers.
- Unlike these practitioners, there were only a few dentists present.
- The first widely known dentist in the world was Hesy-Ra, the Chief of Dentists and Physician to the King under Djoser’s reign.
- Other Egyptian physicians included:
- Medunefer, a known eye doctor.
- Merit-Ptah, rumored to be the first female physician and scientist recorded in history.
- Penthu, the Chief physician of Akhenaten.
- Qar, a former royal physician.
- Payeftjauemawyneith, the chief physician of Apries and Amasis.
Ancient Egyptian Medicine Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Ancient Egyptian Medicine across 36 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching about Ancient Egyptian Medicine, a time when Ancient Egyptian doctors had high knowledge in the medical field and could perform advanced medical practices.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Ancient Egyptian Medicine Facts
- What’s Wrong?
- Board Exam
- I’m Ill
- Give Me My Medicine
- Medical Books
- What Do You Think?
- Body Channel Theory
- Doctors Are Heroes
- Tell Me About It
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Use With Any Curriculum
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