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Plates vi & vii of the Edwin Smith Papyrus (around the 17th century BC), thought to be the earliest medical text.

Medical papyri are ancient Egyptian texts written on papyrus which permit a glimpse at medical procedures and practices in ancient Egypt. The papyri give details on disease, diagnosis, and remedies of disease, which include herbal remedies, surgery, and magical spells. It is thought there were more medical papyri, but many have been lost due to grave robbing. The largest study of the medical papyri to date has been undertaken by Berlin University and was titled Medizin der alten Ägypter ("Medicine of ancient Egypt").[1]

Early Egyptian medicine was based mostly on a mixture of magic and religious spells. Most commonly "cured" by use of amulets or magical spells, the illnesses were thought to be caused by spiteful behavior or actions. Afterwards, doctors performed various medical treatments if necessary. The instructions for these medical rituals were later inscribed on papyrus scrolls by the priests performing the actions. [2]

Contents

Major papyri

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Edwin Smith Papyrus

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is thought to be the earliest medical text known to date and is the most detailed and sophisticated of the extant medical papyri. The papyrus takes its name from the Egyptian archaeologist Edwin Smith who purchased it in the 1860's.[3] The papyrus covers 17 pages and concentrates on issues relating to trauma, with diagnosis and treatment methods also being discussed. [1] An important aspect of the text is that it shows that the heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, ureters, and bladder were all known to the Egyptians, along with the fact that the blood vessels were connected to the heart.

Ebers Papyrus

The Ebers Papyrus was also purchased by Edwin Smith in 1862. It takes its name from Georg Ebers who purchased the papyrus in 1872. The papyrus dates to around 1550BC and covers 110 pages, making it the lengthiest of the medical papyri. [1] The papyrus covers many different topics including; dermatology, digestive diseases, traumatic diseases, dentistry and gynecological conditions. It makes many references to treating ailments with spells or religious techniques.[citation needed] One of the most important findings of this papyrus are the references to migraines which shows the condition dates back to this time.[4]

Kahun Papyrus

The Kahun Gynecological Papyrus was found by Flinders Petrie in 1889 and has been dated to around 1825 BC. The papyrus contains 35 separate paragraphs about women's health[1]. The major concerns of the papyrus are diseases related to the reproductive organs and deals specifically with disease during pregnancy.

Hearst Papyrus

The Hearst Papyrus was offered in 1901 to the Hearst Expedition in Egypt. It is dated around 2000 BC, though doubts subsist about its authenticity. It concentrated on treatments for problems dealing with the urinary system, blood, hair, and bites. It has been extensively studied since its publication in 1905.[1][5]

Other papyri

Other medical papyri have been found but researched to a lower degree, including:

References

Further reading

See also


Simple English

File:Edwin Smith Papyrus
Plates vi & vii of the Edwin Smith Papyrus (around the 17th century BC), thought to be the earliest medical text.

The medical papyri (or medical papyruses) are a set of ancient Egyptian texts that give background info on medical practices from ancient Egyptian times. The papyri give details on disease, diagnostics, and remedies of disease, which also have traditional methods and with magical spells.

It is thought there were more medical papyri, but many have been lost due to grave robbing. The largest study of the medical papyri to date has was undertaken by Berlin University and was titled "Medizin der alten Agypter" (Medicine of ancient Egypt).

Early Egyptian medicine was based on a mixture of magic and religious spells. Most commonly "cured" by use of amulets or magical spells, the illnesses were thought to be caused by spiteful acts or actions. Afterwards, doctors did various medical treatments if needed. The instructions for these medical rituals were later inscribed on papyrus scrolls by the priests performing the actions.

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