Sunday, August 12, 2012

The first doctors and medical textbooks.

I have realized that we have yet to touch on my favorite topics in Egyptology, medicine. This is a vast topic so we will touch on it here in small pieces. Before we get into talking about specific medical practices it is important to think about what writings exist for medicine at that time.

Names of the papyri:

- Berlin Papyrus - Gynecological, pregnancy tests and mathematics including algebra. c1800 BC

- Brooklyn Papyrus - Concerned mostly with poisonous and venomous stings and bites including identification of snakes, spiders and scorpions as well as prognosis based on symptoms. c1800 BC

- Brugsch Papyrus - Contains topics of  gynecology,contraception, fertility,  topical/visible/skin issues, mouth issues and chronic disease as well as trauma. (24 pages) c1300 BC

- Carlsberg Papyrus - Focuses on pregnancy and the eyes. c2000 BC to 100 AD. This set is suspected to be added to over time since it consist of writings in hieroglyphs, hieratic, demotic and ancient Greek.

- Chester Beatty Papyrus - Focuses on headaches and digestive tract/anal illnesses (19 papyri) c.1200 BC

- Ebers Papyrus - Mutiple medical topics such as skin diseases, trauma, gynecology, dentistry, chronic diseases (such as migraines) and traumatic diseases. (110 pages) c1550 BC

- Edwin Smith Papyrus - Part of a textbook on trauma diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and surgery techniques. In depth look at what body structures the Egyptians were familiar with including key ideas like the blood vessels being connected to the heart. (22 pages) c.1600 BC Can be seen in translation online.

- Hearst Papyrus - Focuses on issue of blood, hair and animal bites. (This is the only one of the 4 big medical papyri: Kahun, Edwin, Ebers and Hearst that I have not seen direct translations of.) c.2000 BC

- Kahun Papyrus - Women's health. Sometimes called the Kahan Gynecological papyrus. (35 paragraphs)c.1800 BC

- London Medical Papyrus- Prayer and magical aspects of medicine. c 1300 BC

Ramesseum Papyri - Includes Pediatrics, gynecology, and illnesses/injuries related to the eyes and muscular system (17 papyri) c1980 BC

Other smaller papyri exist or papyri that has a small reference to something medical but these are the larger ones that deal with medicine exclusively, or almost so. In addition to using the papyri directly there are some books on this topic that are well worth reading if you are interested in this topic.

Books and videos

Ancient Egyptian Medicine by John Nunn. This is probably the best of the books out there for the medical papyri as far as description, categorization and referencing.

The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

An Ancient Egyptian Herbal by Lise Manniche. Medicinal plants in Ancient Egypt. I have not yet read this book so I can't speak for its content. However, it does look very interesting.

Ancient Egypt, Modern Medicine a documentary from the History Channel. Talks about the when and what of the big topics in Ancient Egypt. You can see an excerpt from it here.

Investigation Into Dynamics of Ancient Egyptian Pharmacology: A Statistical Analysis of Papyrus Ebers and Cross-Cultural Medical Thinking This looks truly fascinating as well but I haven't got to read this yet either.

The Quick And The Dead: Biomedical Theory In Ancient Egypt Another of the books I want to read but can't because cost prohibits me.

The Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World by Guido Majno This book gives a brief, layman accessible overview to the history of surgical and trauma practices in all the ancient world.

Man and Wound in the Ancient World: A History of Military Medicine from Sumer to the Fall of Constantinople by Richard Gabriel. I haven't read this one personally either but the local librarian suggested it as a good study of injuries related to war and medical practices for the battlefield in the ancient world.

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