Notícia

Medicina egípcia

Medicina egípcia

A prática médica no antigo Egito era tão avançada que muitas de suas observações, políticas e procedimentos comuns não seriam superados no Ocidente por séculos após a queda de Roma e suas práticas informariam a medicina grega e romana. Eles entenderam que as doenças podiam ser tratadas com produtos farmacêuticos, reconheceram o potencial de cura em massagens e aromas, tinham médicos e mulheres que se especializaram em certas áreas específicas e compreenderam a importância da limpeza no tratamento dos pacientes.

Nos dias modernos, é reconhecido que doenças e infecções podem ser causadas por germes e pode-se pensar que as pessoas sempre acreditaram nisso, mas esta é uma inovação relativamente tardia na compreensão humana. Foi somente no século 19 EC que a teoria da doença dos germes foi confirmada por Louis Pasteur e comprovada pelo trabalho do cirurgião britânico Joseph Lister.

Antes de qualquer um deles, o médico húngaro Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865 DC) ofereceu a então estranha proposta à comunidade médica de que eles poderiam cortar as taxas de mortalidade em suas clínicas simplesmente lavando as mãos. Ele era ridicularizado pelos médicos, que não viam motivo para lavar as mãos antes mesmo dos procedimentos cirúrgicos mais invasivos, e ficavam cada vez mais frustrados e amargos. Semmelweis foi internado em uma instituição para doentes mentais em 1865 CE, onde morreu, após ser severamente espancado pelos guardas, por sugerir uma prática reconhecida como bom senso hoje.

A taxa de mortalidade após procedimentos médicos no antigo Egito era provavelmente menor do que a de qualquer hospital europeu na era cristã até meados do século 20 EC.

Os antigos egípcios teriam aceitado a proposta de Semmelweis sem hesitação; não porque entendessem o conceito de germes, mas porque valorizavam a limpeza. A taxa de mortalidade após procedimentos médicos no antigo Egito era provavelmente menor do que a de qualquer hospital europeu na era cristã até meados do século 20 EC, quando a limpeza pessoal e a esterilização de instrumentos se tornaram uma prática comum.

A egiptóloga Barbara Watterson observa que "a medicina no antigo Egito era relativamente avançada e os médicos egípcios, que eram todos, com uma ou duas exceções, homens, eram qualificados (46). Mesmo assim, para uma civilização que regularmente dissecava os mortos para embalsamar, os médicos tinha pouca compreensão de como a maioria dos órgãos internos funcionava e atribuía as doenças às forças sobrenaturais.

Lesões e doenças

As lesões eram fáceis de entender no antigo Egito; doença era um pouco mais difícil. Quando alguém foi ferido, havia uma causa clara e um efeito que poderia então ser tratado; quando uma pessoa estava doente, entretanto, a causa era menos clara e, portanto, o diagnóstico mais problemático.

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A causa da doença era geralmente entendida como consequência do pecado e, quando não parecia o caso, que o paciente estava sob um ataque demoníaco, estava sendo atormentado por um fantasma furioso ou que algum deus achava que precisava aprender uma lição. A doença, portanto, era comumente tratada através da recitação de feitiços mágicos por um médico. Watterson observa, "o primeiro 'médico' era um mágico, pois os egípcios acreditavam que as doenças e enfermidades eram causadas por uma força maligna que entrava no corpo" (65).

Os tipos de doenças que os egípcios sofriam eram tão numerosos e variados quanto hoje e incluíam a bilharsíase (uma doença contraída e transmitida por meio de água contaminada); tracoma (uma infecção do olho); malária; disenteria; varíola; pneumonia; Câncer; doença cardíaca; demência; tifóide; artrite; pressão alta; bronquite; tuberculose; apendicite; pedras nos rins; doença hepática; curvatura da coluna; o resfriado comum e cistos ovarianos.

Além de feitiços mágicos, os antigos egípcios usavam encantamentos, amuletos, oferendas, aromas, tatuagens e estátuas para afastar o fantasma ou demônio, aplacar o deus ou deuses que enviaram a doença ou invocar a proteção de um poder superior como medida preventiva. Os feitiços e encantamentos foram escritos em rolos de papiro que se tornaram os textos médicos da época.

Os textos médicos

Embora sem dúvida houvesse muitos outros textos disponíveis no antigo Egito, apenas alguns sobreviveram até o presente. Esses poucos, no entanto, fornecem uma riqueza de informações sobre como os egípcios viam a doença e o que eles acreditavam que aliviaria os sintomas do paciente ou levaria à cura. Eles são nomeados em homenagem ao indivíduo que os possuía ou à instituição que os abriga. Todos eles, em maior ou menor grau, contam com a magia simpática e também com a técnica prática.

O Papiro Médico Chester Beatty, datado de c. 1200 aC, prescreve tratamento para doenças anorretais (problemas associados ao ânus e reto) e prescreve cannabis para pacientes com câncer (antes da menção à cannabis em Heródoto, há muito considerada a primeira menção da droga). O Papiro Médico de Berlim (também conhecido como Papiro Brugsch, datado do Novo Reino, c. 1570 - c. 1069 aC) trata de contracepção, fertilidade e inclui os primeiros testes de gravidez conhecidos. O papiro Ebers (c. 1550 aC) trata o câncer (para o qual, segundo ele, não há tratamento), doenças cardíacas, diabetes, controle de natalidade e depressão. O papiro Edwin Smith (c. 1600 aC) é o trabalho mais antigo sobre técnicas cirúrgicas. O Papiro Mágico Demótico de Londres e Leiden (c. Século III dC) é inteiramente dedicado a feitiços mágicos e adivinhação. O Hearst Medical Papyrus (datado do Novo Reino) trata infecções do trato urinário e problemas digestivos. O Papiro Ginecológico Kahun (c. 1800 aC) trata de questões de concepção e gravidez, bem como de contracepção. O London Medical Papyrus (c. 1782-1570 aC) oferece prescrições para problemas relacionados aos olhos, pele, queimaduras e gravidez. Esses são apenas os papiros reconhecidos como totalmente voltados para a medicina. Existem muitos outros que abordam o assunto, mas geralmente não são aceitos como textos médicos.

Todos esses trabalhos, em um momento ou outro, foram consultados por médicos praticantes que faziam visitas domiciliares de rotina. Os egípcios chamavam a ciência da medicina de "arte necessária" por razões óbvias. Os médicos eram considerados padres da Per-Ankh, a Casa da Vida, uma espécie de biblioteca / escola anexa a um templo, mas o conceito de 'casa da vida' também foi considerado o conhecimento curativo de cada médico.

Médicos, parteiras, enfermeiras e dentistas

Os médicos no antigo Egito podiam ser homens ou mulheres. O "primeiro médico", mais tarde divinizado como deus da medicina e da cura, foi o arquiteto Imhotep (c. 2667-2600 aC) mais conhecido por projetar a pirâmide de degraus de Djoser em Saqqara. Imhotep também é lembrado por iniciar a "medicina secular" por meio de seus tratados, argumentando que a doença ocorria naturalmente e não era um castigo dos deuses. Mulheres na profissão médica no Egito remontam ao início do período dinástico, quando Merit-Ptah era o médico-chefe da corte real c. 2700 AC. Merit-Ptah é a primeira médica conhecida pelo nome na história mundial, mas as evidências sugerem uma escola de medicina no Templo de Neith em Sais, no Baixo Egito, administrada por uma mulher cujo nome é desconhecido c. 3000 aC.

Pesehet (c. 2500 aC), outra médica frequentemente citada como a primeira, era a "Senhora Supervisora ​​das Médicas", possivelmente associada à escola de Sais, atestando a presença de mulheres na prática médica nessa época. A famosa lenda de Agnodice de Atenas (c. Século 4 aC) relata como, negada a entrada na profissão médica por ser mulher, ela foi para o Egito, onde as mulheres eram respeitadas no campo. Não se sabe como e onde os médicos receberam sua formação, embora tenha sido estabelecido que havia uma escola importante em Alexandria, bem como a de Sais.

Um médico não só precisava ser alfabetizado, mas também puro de corpo e espírito. Os médicos eram chamados de Wabau, ritualmente puro, e esperava-se que se banhasse com a mesma frequência e cuidado como um sumo sacerdote. Cada médico tinha sua especialidade, mas também havia swnw, clínicos gerais e sau, cuja especialidade era o uso de magia. Parteiras, massagistas, enfermeiras, atendentes e videntes também ajudaram o médico. Os médicos não parecem ter nada a ver com partos, no entanto, que eram feitos inteiramente por parteiras e mulheres da casa. A egiptóloga Carolyn Graves-Brown escreve:

A obstetrícia parece ter sido uma profissão exclusivamente feminina no antigo Egito. Que assim fosse é sugerido por textos médicos, que trazem informações ginecológicas, mas não discutem obstetrícia. Além disso, os homens nunca são mostrados em cenas de parto e, no Papiro Westcar, a mãe é assistida no parto por quatro deusas. (82)

Não há evidências de treinamento médico de parteiras. No Reino Antigo, a palavra para 'parteira' é associada à palavra para 'enfermeira', aquela que ajudava um médico, mas essa associação termina após esse período. As parteiras podem ser parentes, amigas ou vizinhas do sexo feminino e não parecem ser consideradas profissionais da área médica.

A enfermeira pode ser do sexo feminino ou masculino e é um profissional médico altamente respeitado, embora, como acontece com as parteiras, não haja evidências de uma escola ou formação profissional. O tipo de enfermeira mais importante era a ama de leite. Graves-Brown observa, "com a probabilidade provável de alta mortalidade das mães, as amas de leite teriam sido particularmente importantes" (83). As mulheres morriam regularmente durante o parto e os documentos legais mostram acordos entre amas de leite e as famílias para cuidar do recém-nascido em caso de morte da mãe. A ama seca, que auxiliava nos procedimentos, recebeu tanto respeito que foi representada durante a época do Novo Reino como ligada ao divino. A associação da enfermeira com o médico parece bem estabelecida, mas não tanto seu vínculo com o dentista.

A odontologia surgiu da profissão médica estabelecida, mas nunca se desenvolveu tão amplamente. Os antigos egípcios sofreram de problemas dentários ao longo de toda a história da civilização, então por que os dentistas não eram mais abundantes, ou melhor documentados, não está claro. Os médicos também praticavam odontologia, mas existiam dentistas já no início do período dinástico. O primeiro dentista conhecido pelo nome no mundo, na verdade, é Hesyre (c. 2600 aC), chefe dos dentistas e médico do rei sob o reinado de Djoser (c. 2700 aC). Os problemas dentários eram especialmente prevalentes devido à dieta egípcia de pão grosso e sua incapacidade de manter a areia fora de sua comida. A egiptóloga e historiadora Margaret Bunson escreve:

Os egípcios de todas as épocas tinham dentes terríveis e problemas peridontais. No Novo Império, entretanto, a cárie dentária era crítica. Os médicos encheram alguns dentes com mel e ervas, talvez para conter infecções ou aliviar a dor. Algumas múmias também receberam pontes e dentes de ouro. Não se sabe se esses materiais dentários foram usados ​​pelo usuário em vida ou inseridos no processo de embalsamamento. (158)

A rainha Hatshepsut (1479-1458 aC) do Novo Reino morreu de um dente com abscesso, assim como muitos outros. Acreditava-se que as dores de dente e os problemas dentários eram causados ​​por um verme que precisava ser expulso por meio de feitiços e encantamentos. Essa crença, sem dúvida, se originou na Mesopotâmia, especificamente na Suméria, onde encantamentos contra o verme dos dentes foram encontrados em inscrições cuneiformes antigas.

Deuses, medicamentos e implementos que curam

Assim como acontece com os médicos, os dentistas usavam encantamentos mágicos para expulsar o verme do paciente e, em seguida, aplicavam os medicamentos de que dispunham para aliviar a dor. Médicos e dentistas freqüentemente usavam ervas e especiarias para fins medicinais. Uma cura para o mau hálito crônico, por exemplo, era mascar uma bola de chiclete de mel, canela, mirra, olíbano e pignon. Há evidências de extração de dente e dentes falsos com ópio usado como anestésico. A importância da dieta foi reconhecida e mudanças na dieta de alguém para melhorar a saúde foram sugeridas. Remédios práticos e práticos sempre foram aplicados primeiro em casos de lesão física óbvia, mas com dor de dente ou doença na gengiva, como em qualquer doença, uma causa sobrenatural foi assumida.

A crença na magia estava profundamente enraizada na cultura egípcia e era considerada tão natural e normal quanto qualquer outro aspecto da existência. O deus da magia também era um deus da medicina, Heka, que carregava um cajado entrelaçado com duas serpentes. Este símbolo foi passado aos gregos que o associaram ao seu deus da cura, Asclépio, e que hoje é reconhecido como o caduceu da profissão médica. Embora o caduceu sem dúvida tenha viajado do Egito para a Grécia, ele se originou na Suméria como cajado de Ninazu, filho da deusa suméria da cura Gula.

Além de Heka, havia várias outras divindades de cura importantes, como Sekhmet, Serket (também conhecido como Selket), Sobek e Nefertum. Os sacerdotes de Serket eram todos médicos, embora nem todos os médicos fossem membros de seu culto. Serket e Sekhmet eram regularmente invocados em feitiços e encantamentos mágicos junto com Heka e, em certos casos, outras divindades como Bes ou Tawawret (geralmente lidando com doenças infantis / de fertilidade). Sobek, o deus crocodilo, parece ter sido amplamente invocado para cirurgias e procedimentos invasivos. Nefertum, o deus dos perfumes associado ao lótus e à cura, era invocado em procedimentos que hoje seriam reconhecidos como aromaterapia. No papiro Kahun, um curso prescrito regularmente para mulheres é fumigá-las com incenso para expulsar um espírito maligno e Nefertum teria sido chamado nesses casos.

Junto com feitiços e encantamentos, os médicos egípcios usavam ervas e especiarias naturais, bem como suas próprias criações. Bunson escreve:

Os medicamentos dos antigos médicos-sacerdotes egípcios incluíam antiácidos, sais de cobre, terebintina, alúmen, adstringentes, laxantes alcalinos, diuréticos, sedativos, antiespasmódicos, carbonatos de cálcio e magnésia. Eles também empregaram muitas ervas exóticas. Toda dispensação de remédios cuidadosamente estipulada nos papiros médicos, com instruções explícitas quanto à dosagem exata, a maneira como o remédio deveria ser tomado internamente (como com vinho ou comida) e aplicações externas. (158)

Os procedimentos cirúrgicos eram comuns e muitos instrumentos que ainda são usados ​​hoje foram identificados. Os egípcios tinham uma pederneira e um bisturi de metal, um alicate dentário, uma serra de osso, sondas, o cateter, pinças para interromper o fluxo sanguíneo, espéculos, pinças, lancetas para abrir veias, esponjas, tesouras, frascos, ataduras de linho e balanças para pesando a quantidade adequada de matérias-primas para misturar para medicamentos. As cirurgias eram freqüentemente bem-sucedidas, como evidenciado por múmias e outros restos encontrados que sobreviveram a amputações e até cirurgias cerebrais por anos. Membros protéticos, geralmente feitos de madeira, também foram encontrados.

Conclusão

No entanto, nem todas as práticas médicas no Egito tiveram tanto sucesso. A circuncisão era um ritual religioso realizado em meninos com idades entre 10 e 14 anos, marcando a transição da adolescência para a idade adulta. Era realizado por um médico que também servia como sacerdote do templo, usando uma lâmina de sílex e recitando encantamentos, mas, apesar de suas precauções, esse procedimento às vezes ainda resultava em infecção. Como a natureza da infecção era desconhecida para eles, ela foi considerada o resultado de uma influência sobrenatural e tratada por meio de feitiços; isso provavelmente resultou na morte de muitos rapazes.

Por acreditarem que o útero está conectado a todas as partes do corpo da mulher, a fumigação do útero era uma receita comum, acompanhada de encantamentos, que ignorariam a verdadeira causa do problema. Os problemas oculares foram tratados com uma dose de sangue de morcego porque se pensou que a visão noturna do morcego seria transferida para o paciente; nenhuma evidência sugere que isso foi eficaz.

Embora os embalsamadores do Egito sem dúvida tenham entendido como os órgãos que retiraram do corpo funcionavam uns com os outros, esse conhecimento nunca foi compartilhado com os médicos. Essas duas profissões se moviam em esferas completamente diferentes e o que cada uma fazia dentro de sua própria descrição de trabalho não era considerado relevante para a outra. É por essa razão que, embora os egípcios tivessem os meios para explorar a medicina interna, eles nunca o fizeram.

O coração, embora reconhecido como uma bomba, também era considerado o centro da emoção, da personalidade e do intelecto; o coração foi preservado no falecido enquanto o cérebro foi raspado e descartado como sem valor. Embora eles reconhecessem a doença hepática, eles não tinham compreensão da função do fígado e, embora lidassem regularmente com abortos e infertilidade, não tinham conhecimento de obstetrícia. A confiança da cultura na assistência sobrenatural dos deuses os impedia de explorar soluções mais imediatas e práticas para os problemas médicos que encontravam diariamente.

Ainda assim, o médico egípcio era amplamente respeitado por sua habilidade e conhecimento e era convocado pelos reis e nobres de outras nações. Os gregos admiravam especialmente a profissão médica egípcia e adotaram várias de suas crenças e técnicas. Posteriormente, médicos famosos de Roma e da Grécia - como Galeno e Hipócrates ("pai da medicina moderna") - estudaram os textos e símbolos egípcios e assim transmitiram as tradições aos dias atuais.


10 fatos sobre a medicina egípcia antiga

Se você quiser saber como as pessoas no Egito antigo curavam a doença, você deve verificar Fatos sobre a medicina egípcia antiga. A medicina tradicional no Egito foi documentada no passado. A maioria deles estava no estilo avançado, embora a prática não tenha sido alterada. Ele ainda envolveu a fixação de ossos, cirurgia não invasiva e conjunto de farmacopéia. Aqui estão os fatos interessantes sobre a medicina egípcia antiga para você:


Livro secreto do médico de Papyrus Ebers

Um dos livros de texto mais antigos conhecido agora como Papyrus Ebers , mas para os egípcios como Os livros secretos do médico fornece em poucas palavras tudo o que você precisa saber sobre a medicina egípcia. Diz: “Eu vim de Heliópolis com os sacerdotes do grande templo, os senhores da eternidade e possuidores dos meios de proteção.” Isso implica a longa linhagem para este conhecimento, que começa com os sacerdotes e escribas no templo, especificamente o conhecimento que vem da apropriadamente chamada "Casa da Vida". A ‘Casa da Vida’ era uma biblioteca de livros valiosos que cada templo possuía, mesmo o menor teria um ou dois livros. Um grande templo como o de Edfu teria várias salas especiais separadas, muitas vezes com as paredes decoradas com exemplos de fórmulas-chave, como no conhecido ‘Laboratório de Edfu’, onde muitos incensos e drogas especiais foram preparados.

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Chris Morgan é um acadêmico independente respeitado, ex-aluno da Wellcome e detentor de um diploma avançado em Estudos Orientais pela University of Oxford. É autor de vários livros sobre o Egito, com especialização em religião popular, calendários rituais e a “memória arqueológica” codificada nas religiões do Egito pós-faraônico. Seu último livro é: Isis: Goddess of Egypt & amp India

Imagem superior : Uma invocação a I-em-hetep, a divindade egípcia da medicina por Ernest Board. (Imagens Wellcome / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Mogg Morgan é um acadêmico independente respeitado, ex-aluno da Wellcome e detentor de um diploma avançado em Estudos Orientais pela University of Oxford.

Ele é o autor de vários livros sobre o Egito, especializado em religião popular, calendários rituais e o. consulte Mais informação


Influência egípcia na medicina antiga

Os antigos egípcios tinham uma vasta coleção de conhecimentos médicos que influenciaram as culturas vizinhas e as nações futuras. Este artigo tem como objetivo responder à pergunta: Como a medicina do Egito Antigo influenciou outros reinos antigos e o conhecimento médico e o tratamento? Essa influência é mais evidente na Mesopotâmia, Israel, Grécia e nos territórios romanos. Este artigo cobrirá essas nações, como essa influência possivelmente ocorreu e o que permaneceu até os dias de hoje.

A Mesopotâmia teve muitas influências da medicina egípcia antiga. A Mesopotâmia, incluindo a Assíria e a Babilônia, tinha um grande estoque de drogas. Mais de quinhentos medicamentos foram descobertos na medicina mesopotâmica (Wischik, 1998). Com uma farmácia desse tamanho, a Mesopotâmia negociava com o Egito e outros reinos da região.

“Alguns dos medicamentos eram feitos de materiais vegetais importados do exterior. Mandrake (por exemplo, pHearst 109, 168, 185 [57]), introduzido em Canaã e cultivado localmente desde o Novo Reino, era considerado um afrodisíaco e, misturado com álcool, induzia à inconsciência. O óleo de cedro, um anti-séptico, [31] teve origem no Levante. A hena persa foi cultivada no Egito desde o Império do Meio, e & # 8211 se idêntica à Henu mencionado no papiro Ebers & # 8211 foi usado contra a queda de cabelo. Eles trataram o catarro com babosa, que veio da África oriental. O olíbano, contendo tetrahidrocanabinol e usado como haxixe [49] como analgésico (por exemplo, pKahun 12 [58]), foi importado de Punt ”(Dollinger, 2002).

Essa troca de drogas pode ter trazido o conhecimento dos egípcios sobre o ópio e outras drogas para a Mesopotâmia. O conhecimento de como cultivar ou fazer remédios egípcios também poderia ter ocorrido. Até mesmo viajantes de outras terras testemunharam e escreveram sobre esse comércio. “Homero, Teofrasto e Plínio fornecem um vislumbre do antigo mundo das plantas e drogas. Coletivamente, eles relatam um mundo imerso no conhecimento e no uso de muitas variedades de plantas utilizadas para medicamentos internos e externos. Essas tradições provavelmente têm raízes nas antigas civilizações do Oriente Próximo, como a Assíria e a Babilônia ”(Pettis, 2006, p.117). Até mesmo os hititas foram influenciados pela medicina egípcia. “Os médicos egípcios eram muito procurados no mundo antigo, apesar do fato de que, possivelmente, muito pouco foi acrescentado ao cânone de conhecimento após o primeiro período intermediário (cerca de 2.000 AEC). Ramsés II enviou médicos ao rei de Hatti e muitos governantes, entre eles os persas Achaemenids [16], tinham médicos egípcios presentes ”(Dollinger, 2002). Isso poderia ter espalhado a influência egípcia ainda mais em outros territórios (Dollinger, 2002).

A medicina do Egito Antigo pode ter influenciado Israel por meio de seu cativeiro na Assíria e na Babilônia (Wischik, 1998). Há evidências de que o conhecimento médico egípcio está sendo usado em Israel. A maioria das civilizações antigas, incluindo os egípcios, os mesopotâmicos e os hebreus, escolheu o coração como órgão central do corpo ”(Rose, 2009, p.241). O tempo dos israelitas na Mesopotâmia permitiu a difusão de ideias por meio do comércio com o Egito e do acesso às suas teorias médicas. Parece que essa ideia se manteve por muitos anos após o cativeiro, uma vez que os escritores bíblicos também carregaram essa ideia (Rose, 2009, p.241). Muitos viajantes até registraram essas ideias e sua influência egípcia usando mitologia médica egípcia conhecida, como o conto ‘Isis to Horus’ (Pettis, 2006, p.118). Certas práticas na medicina hebraica se assemelhavam muito à egípcia, como amarrar fraturas em bandagens e feridas cobertas de óleo ou vinho para curá-las (Wischik, 1998). A dieta dos israelitas pode ter sido influenciada pelo contato com o Egito, uma vez que "Carne (ovelha, cabra, porcos, caça selvagem) estava regularmente disponível pelo menos para as classes altas e os peixes eram amplamente consumidos, embora haja evidências de proibições durante certos períodos contra certos tipos de produtos de origem animal, Heródoto escreveu sobre o porco como sendo & # 8216 sujo & # 8217 ”(Crystal, 1995). Grande parte da medicina egípcia era dieta e a medicina preventiva de não consumir porcos pode ter passado para os israelitas (Crystal, 1995).

Os israelitas também usaram mais remédios do Egito nos séculos posteriores. “Segundo documentos de Genizah do século XI, o myrobalan de origem egípcia era vendido em Jerusalém, onde provavelmente havia chegado via Ramlah” (Amar e Lev, 2007, p.536). O mirobalano foi introduzido no Egito por meio do comércio e, como muitas outras substâncias comercializadas antes, o Egito se tornou um grande produtor e fornecedor dessa droga (Amar e Lev, 2007, p.536).

A medicina egípcia antiga teve a maior influência na prática médica grega. O Egito já praticava medicina por muitos anos antes que os gregos atingissem sua Idade Clássica, o que tornou o Egito um lugar óbvio para aprender ou explorar suas técnicas médicas (Osborn, 2007). Muitos gregos, como Homero, Heródoto e Plínio, viajaram extensivamente e concentraram muitos de seus escritos no Egito e sua medicina (Pettis, 2006, p.114 e Wischik, 1998). Alguns gregos, como Tales, Hipócrates, Herófilos, Erasístrato e Galeno, até estudaram medicina no Egito Antigo e trouxeram esse conhecimento de volta para a Grécia com eles. Todos eles escreveram sobre o Egito e suas práticas médicas (Crystal, 1995). Os numerosos papiros médicos que os egípcios usavam também continham sistemas e classificação de doenças, o que poderia ter influenciado o próprio estudo e classificação de doenças dos gregos (Osborn, 2007). Os gregos que foram para o Egito poderiam ter trazido de volta muitas dessas idéias pelas quais a medicina grega se tornou mais tarde conhecida: prognóstico e exame (Porter, 1997, p.61). Tanto a medicina egípcia quanto a grega eram muito semelhantes,

“Provavelmente o médico faria uma visita domiciliar se você pudesse pagar. A primeira coisa que ele pode fazer é examinar seu pulso, embora nunca tenha ficado realmente claro quais informações os antigos egípcios aprenderam com esse procedimento. Aí o seu médico o interrogaria, de acordo com o Smith Papyrus, para saber sobre o seu estado geral e os seus sintomas ... Depois o médico o examinaria com muita observação prática, sondando aqui, apalpando ali. Ele pode pedir uma amostra de urina para examinar ou testar quando saiu de sua cabeceira. Por fim, ele pronunciava o que achava de errado com você e qual deveria ser o seu tratamento ”(Saber, 2010, p.329).

O processo dos gregos era quase o mesmo, apesar do fato de sua causa da doença ser diferente da dos egípcios (Porter, 1997, p.60). Ambos dependem da observação dos sintomas do paciente e da experiência do médico (Wischik, 1998). No entanto, essa semelhança não é chocante, uma vez que o Egito tem as primeiras evidências conhecidas de médicos praticantes que passaram por um treinamento rigoroso (Saber, 2010, p.327). Esse sistema escolar para médicos influenciou mais tarde as escolas medievais de medicina no mundo ocidental. Isso também influenciou a especialização dos médicos gregos e a separação da cirurgia como um ramo separado (Porter, 1997, p.59 e 114). Os gregos foram influenciados até mesmo a iniciar escolas de medicina próprias, Kos e Cnidus, no século 5 aC. As escolas dos gregos foram estabelecidas sob seu deus da medicina, Asclépio, mas adotaram muitas ideias egípcias, como a interação dos sonhos na cura, provavelmente do mito de 'Ísis a Hórus' e a influência de Imhotep, que era uma divindade semelhante a Asclepius (Pettis, 2006, p.113 Wischik, 1998 e Osborn, 2007).

Os egípcios e sua mumificação os ajudaram a encontrar a localização dos órgãos no corpo. Devido a ferimentos graves ou possivelmente à dissecção humana em raras ocasiões, os egípcios podem ter influenciado o estudo de anatomia dos gregos. Os egípcios colocaram muito desse conhecimento no Papiro Smith, que os alunos gregos eram obrigados a ler (Saber, 2010, p.329). Pode ser aí que os gregos aprenderam sobre a importância do pulso e da circulação sanguínea e começaram seu próprio estudo do corpo humano devido às descrições do crânio e do cérebro. Isso poderia ter mudado a visão grega de que o cérebro é o centro da alma e não o coração (Osborn, 2007 e Crystal, 1995). Esses textos podem ter influenciado o Juramento de Hipócrates, uma vez que muitos dos textos se recusaram a tratar ferimentos que eram muito perigosos, como ferimentos fatais na cabeça, e estavam preocupados em não causar danos. Este assunto é até comentado na tumba de um médico-chefe, Nenkh-Sekhmet, da 5ª Dinastia do Egito (Shuttleworth, 2010).

Essa difusão do conhecimento e da prática médica veio dos gregos que viajavam ou aprendiam medicina. Muitos gregos escreveram sobre suas viagens ou sobre medicina e influenciaram a prática de seu país. Os escritores elogiaram a medicina egípcia em seus escritos, “Homero colocou na Odisséia que, de todos os ramos da ciência perseguidos no antigo Egito, nenhum alcançou a popularidade da medicina” (Saber, 2010, p.327). Homer chega a mencionar o uso de ópio, o que expande ainda mais a influência médica egípcia (Bartels et al., 2006, p.213). Ele foi tão longe que “No Egito, os homens são mais hábeis em medicina do que qualquer pessoa da espécie humana & # 8221 (Crystal, 1995). Heródoto também escreveu sobre medicina no Egito, sobre a especialização dos médicos e sua hierarquia (Saber, 2010, p.328). Este escrito influenciou muitos gregos a praticar técnicas egípcias,

“Segundo relatos do historiador grego Heródoto, os antigos egípcios reconheciam a odontologia como uma importante especialidade cirúrgica. Algumas evidências sugerem que os estudos egípcios de fisiologia e patologia, baseados no trabalho do médico Imhotep, e a posterior vivissecção de criminosos pelo anatomista e cirurgião grego Herophilus podem ter influenciado o filósofo grego Tales de Mileto, conhecido por ter viajado para o Egito no século 7 aC ”(Wischik, 1998).

Os gregos pegaram e expandiram muitas ideias das práticas e centros médicos já estabelecidos no Egito (Osborn, 2007).

Os períodos romano e greco-romano também sofreram influências da medicina egípcia. A maior parte dessa influência foi aprendida por meio dos médicos gregos e da conquista do Egito por Alexandre. Tanto por meio da difusão como do comércio grego, os romanos usavam muitos compostos egípcios para a medicina, “É sabido que os antigos egípcios eram bem versados ​​no tratamento da dor, tendo compostos como hioscamus, escopolamina e papoula do ópio entre sua farmacopeia, e que seus o conhecimento posteriormente influenciou as práticas gregas, romanas, hebraicas e árabes ”(Bartels et al., 2006, p.213). Muitas cidades egípcias se tornaram centros de comércio e conhecimento médico, permitindo que esses compostos viajassem e disseminassem ainda mais a influência médica egípcia.

“A ameixa cereja (myrobalan), que contém 30% de tanino, foi prescrita no Cairo para uma grande variedade de doenças no século XI. Essa substância médica era desconhecida dos gregos e romanos e foi introduzida no Mediterrâneo somente após a disseminação do Islã. Myrobalan é, portanto, um exemplo de uma substância médica que se espalhou por meio do que Watson chamou de “inovação agrícola” - que parece ter tido um escopo mais amplo do que ele imaginava, incluindo especiarias e medicamentos ”(Amar e Lev, 2007, p.534).

Muitos desses compostos foram comercializados e usados ​​por muitos anos, estendendo-se até a idade medieval e na Europa (Dollinger, 2002 e Wischik, 1998).

Os egípcios também poderiam ter inspirado os romanos com o uso de suas próteses. Most of these were used for burials and mummification, but a few specimens of usable prosthetics have been found. A useable prosthetic of a big toe from Ancient Egypt has been found to pre-date the earliest known prosthetic found in the Roman era. Either, travelers had seen this practice in Egypt or it had been tried in the Greco-Roman era, influencing prosthetic medicine (Artifact, 2011).

Dentistry in Ancient Egyptian medicine was not a large specialization. What few innovations the Egyptians did pioneer in this field where likely not rediscovered until centuries later. “A few examples of restorative dentistry are known. One mummy had three substitute teeth skillfully tied to the abutment teeth with fine gold wire, but it has been suggested that this was done post-mortem… But apart from this and a few other, less famous, Old Kingdom instances, dentistry as a medical specialty is rarely if at all mentioned until the Graeco-Roman Period” (Dollinger, 2002). This could have been rediscovered by anatomy specimens with dental work or by studying the Ancient Egyptian medical texts (Dollinger, 2002).

The Romans may have used the Egyptians’ obsession with personal hygiene as preventive medicine to deter outbreaks of disease. For example, “The personal hygiene of the ancient Egyptians was impeccable. They bathed twice a day and anointed themselves with perfumes and medicated oils. They boiled their water to sterilize it before drinking, and never ate pork, as it was considered to be unclean. For similar reasons, women never engaged in sex during their menstrual periods” (Osborn, 2007). The Romans were also concerned with hygiene and went further than the Egyptians and built aqueducts for clean water (Shuttleworth, 2010). This hygiene practice could have carried on from the early periods of Egyptian history and into the Roman periods. The new learning centers in Alexandria and Cairo gave Romans the exposure to many of these practices and influenced them to do the same (Porter, 1997, p.67 and Osborn, 2007).

Many of these medical practices from the Egyptians have survived until today. Most of the influence comes from the Greeks, but there are many direct Egyptian influences. The organization of doctors is very similar to the Egyptians’. The hierarchy system had junior doctors (swnw), doctors (imy-r-swnw), senior doctors (wr-swnw), registrar’s (smsw-swnw), consultants (shd-swnw), and specialists in a given field (Saber, 2010, p.328). Even the instruments that Ancient Egyptian doctors used are still the ones used today, “Some of the antique instruments used in traumatology, the general surgery and in cosmetic-plastic operations, are in a scarcely modified manner employed for the same purposes in modern surgical interventions nowadays” (Saber, 2010, p.328). Even the process of dealing with patients has obvious Egyptian roots. “Then your physician would interrogate you, according to the Smith Papyrus, to find out about your general condition and symptoms, just as doctors do today” (Saber, 2010, p.329). The Egyptians even helped influence the Hippocratic Oath that doctors use today (Shuttleworth, 2010). Even the large R on prescriptions possibly comes from the Eye of Horus in Egyptian myth (Saber, 2010, p.333).

Many medicines have also survived from the Egyptians. The Greeks took the Egyptians knowledge of opium and created a medicine that we use today, “One may well believe that the transdermal patch, with its slow release of opioids, is a recent invention. This is evidently not the case, as Galen and those physicians who followed his teachings clearly relied on transdermal applications of opioids in their ointments and medications as part of a means of pain management” (Bartels et al., 2006, p.213-214). More doctors are using ancient herbs in modern medicine to treat their patients. Figs, dates, and castor oil are still used as laxatives, tannic acid is used for burns, honey can be used as an antiseptic, willow is used in aspirin, mint to treat gastric disorders, and pomegranate is still used for treatment of parasites (Shuttleworth, 2010 and Wischik, 1998).

The Ancient Egyptians influenced medicine for their neighboring nations and ones far into the future. Either by trade or travelers coming to write or learn medicine, the Egyptians’ influence has spread. They provided medicines and procedures that influenced the modern world’s medical base that we know today.

Amar, Zohar Lev, Efraim. The Significance of the Genizah’s Medical Documents for the Study of Medieval Mediterranean Trade. Journal of the Economic & Social History of the Orient. 2007. Vol. 50(4):p524-541.

ARTIFACT. Arqueologia. 2011. Vol.64(3), 72. (No specific author)

Bartels, Else M., Swaddling, Judith, Harrison, Adrian P. An Ancient Greek Pain Remedy for Athletes. Pain Practice. 2006. Vol.6(3):212-218.

Crystal, Ellie. Ancient Egyptian Medicine (Website). Accessed August 16, 2012 from http://www.crystalinks.com/egyptmedicine.html .

Dollinger, Andre. Ancient Egyptian Medicine (Website). Accessed August 16, 2012 from http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/medicine.htm .

Osborn, David. EGYPTIAN ROOTS: The Origins of Greek Medicine (Website). Accessed August 16, 2012 from http://www.greekmedicine.net/history/Egyptian_roots.html .

Pettis, Jeffrey B. Earth, Dream, and Healing: The Integration of Materia and Psyche in the Ancient World. Journal Of Religion & Health. 2006. Vol.45(1):113-129.

Porter, Roy. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity. Novo

York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Rose, Clifford F. Cerebral Localization in Antiquity. Journal Of The History Of The Neurosciences. 2009. Vol.18(3):239-247.

Saber, Aly. Ancient Egyptian Surgical Heritage. Journal Of Investigative Surgery. 2010. Vol.23(6):327-334.


Egyptian Medicine - History

The science of ancient Egyptian medicine boasts the most advanced knowledge compared to their other neighbors during ancient times. Other kings from other near countries treat Egyptian doctors like a celebrity! They prefer physicians from Egypt to seek help for their ailments. Read on to find out the similarities of modern and Egyptian medicine.

Health Challenges

The ancient Egyptians have a very difficult environment to live on. Hot desert, water-filled parasites, and a crowded village that rats find it as their favorite hangout. It's no wonder they only lived for an average of 36 years! These harsh conditions might have caused the improvement of ancient Egyptian medicinal practices. They are committed on pushing their medicine to the extent that surgeries happened even in the ancient times! O problema? They didn't concentrate on preventing diseases. Giving it a try may have caused fewer headaches for them in the future!

Influencing Today's Doctors

Surprisingly, the habits of a modern doctor existed on ancient Egypt. Egyptian doctors exercise proper hygiene by shaving hair from their bodies and keeping themselves clean. According to records, they also take an oath on medical secrecy with an added twist of morality, much like the Hippocratic Oath. As for lab coats and stuff, they wear white clothing to distinguish themselves as doctors!

Going to the Examination Table

For the typical day of the Egyptian doctor, they make a diagnosis for their patients by asking questions. Like what doctors do today, this method finds out what causes the ailment. They also analyze the bodily discharges of the person such as urine, or saliva. After determining the disease, the doctor gives a detailed instruction on how to cure the Egyptian patient.

However, curing someone with a deadly disease requires incantations. With a country as superstitious as ancient Egypt, medicine advancement walked like a snail. Ancient Egyptians relate most of their illnesses to evil spirits or even the doings of a god!

Among the gods, the Egyptian doctors loved Sekhmet, the god of plagues and epidemics. No wonder that Egyptian priests can act as substitute for doctors! With priests conversing daily with the gods, people find them much more suitable for the job.

Say Cheese!

Egyptians loves to go to the dentist's office. As described in my article about Egyptian food, bread is one of the main sources of nourishment. It contains sand added at the grinding stone that wears their teeth thin. I'm not a doctor but with that sand on the bread, I can tell something terrible will happen.

Examining the Egyptian mummies reveals wear and tear on their teeth. It exposes itself to infection. The Egyptian doctors drain the pus in the teeth by opening a slit to the gums. They know that if they didn’t remove the pus well, it will return to haunt the patient. Records show that among ancient Egyptians, dental problems are common. Even the rich class of Egyptians cannot escape this fate!

Although you could think of this as horrifying, Egyptians have a preference for a clean mouth. Using twigs, they clean their mouths, finishing it up with a mouth wash. They use aromatic plants and honey as the main ingredients to perfume their mouths!

Having heard of all foundation of the ancient Egyptian medicine gives you a good reason to thank for the medical services that we have today. Although the medicine in ancient Egypt is somewhat primitive, some of their principles really exist in modern practices!


Goddess of Healing

Sekhmet was the Egyptian goddess of healing, curses, and threats. Preventive measures included prayers and various kinds of magic, above all the wearing of amulets. Thus an ostrich egg is included in the treatment of a broken skull, and an amulet portraying a hedgehog might be used against baldness.

Health related amulets are classified as homeopathic, phyletic and theophoric. Homoeopathic amulets portray an animal or part of an animal, from which the wearer hopes to gain positive attributes like strength or speed. Phylactic amulets protected against harmful gods and demons. Theophoric amulets represented Egyptian gods.

Egyptians, especially those who were indulged in mummification process, had some knowledge of human anatomy. This is because the process involved removing most of the internal organs including the brain, lungs, pancreas, liver, spleen, heart and intestine.

Egyptian physicians were aware of the existence of the pulse and of a connection between pulse and heart. Though many medical practices were ineffective, the patients were asked to observe hygiene and maintain the diet.

‘Wabau’ was the term used for Egyptian doctors. There were many ranks and specializations in the field of medicine. Royalty employed their own specialists. There were inspectors of doctors, overseers and chief doctors. Known ancient Egyptian specialists are an ophthalmologist, gastroenterologist, proctologist, dentist etc.

The Tomb of the Physician at Saqqara shows pictures of treatment of men. The Egyptian treatments were based on examination, followed by diagnosis. The pots containing medicines were occasionally labeled, stating the Remedy’s composition and how to use it.

Egyptian healers engaged in surgery, prescriptive, and many other healing practices still found today. Among the creatives used by the Egyptians were all types of plant (herbs and other plants), animal (all parts nearly) and mineral compounds.


The Use Of Poop In Medical Treatments Throughout History

It may be gross, but poop has been one of the most readily available substances in the history of life on Earth — so why not use it for medicinal purposes?

Humans have been using excrement in health remedies since ancient times, believe it or not, and we're still using it today. Despite poop’s propensity for spreading disease, it does have some benefits. With tremendous advancements in medicine, particularly over the last hundred years, excrement has gone from a cure-all to a targeted treatment.

The History channel lists human and animal excrement as a favorite of ancient Egyptian doctors for both diseases and injuries, and it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Donkey, dog, gazelle and fly dung were all celebrated for their healing properties and their ability to ward off bad spirits. While these repugnant remedies may have occasionally led to tetanus and other infections, they probably weren’t entirely ineffective — research shows the microflora found in some types of animal dung contain antibiotic substances.” And the BBC notes that the ancient Egyptians used crocodile dung as a form of contraception, among the various materials they tried.

Ancient Egyptian physicians used poop for medicinal purposes. Image courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

A little further along in human history, nosebleeds could have been treated with “warm hog’s dung,” according to the Guardião. And in 1600s Ireland, “father of chemistry” Robert Boyle treated cataracts by drying human poop into powder and blowing it into the eye. There was also excrement being used to treat epilepsy in that same country 100 years later — or more specifically “the dung of an infant pulverized.”

In recent years, aside from such rare cases as the Chinese woman who believes her poop tea cured her of cancer, stool didn’t have much of a use in medicine other than as a diagnostic tool.

Enter: the fecal transplant.

During this procedure, stool from a donor is placed in a patient as a way to add good gut bacteria that help fight off infection. The recipient might have a digestive or autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

It turns out forms of this practice — formally known as Fecal Microbiota Transplant, or FMT — have been around for some time, so maybe our ancestors really knew what they were talking about. According to the Fecal Transplant Foundation, the procedure was known as “yellow soup” in 4th-century China, and in some parts of the world a baby will be given some of its mother’s stool to assist the infant’s immune system and colon. It even has been used in veterinary medicine.

Fecal transplants involve taking stool from a donor and inserting it into a patient. Image courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

It is not yet widely used in the United States — The Fecal Transplant Foundation estimates that fewer than 500 Americans have received the treatment over the years.

The modern use of this treatment aside, it’s probably safe to say that other ancient uses of poop in medicine, such as the powdered cataract treatment, are unlikely to return to common practice.


5 Government-Controlled Medicine

Access to medical care was very well-controlled by the ancient Egyptian government. Doctors were educated through a specific curriculum and were members of a &ldquohouse of life,&rdquo which was usually was associated with a temple. These were medical institutes that trained doctors and also functioned as medical practices where anyone could go to receive treatment.

Also, as mentioned before, there were medical manuals like the Ebers Papyrus and the Edwin Smith Papyrus, in which ailments and their treatments are outlined as well as recipes for medicines. This shows us that doctors shared cures and treatments as a part of standardized care. Doctors in ancient Egypt could be male or female and appear to have chosen specialties, much like our doctors do today. With access to well-trained doctors, Egyptian citizens had better health care than almost anyone else at the time.

Even workers&rsquo compensation seemed to exist. There are descriptions of medical camps set up near construction projects and quarries so that injured workers could receive treatment. It appears that if the injury occurred on the job, the employer would cover the cost of care. Workers could even receive supplemental pay if they were unable to work. Thousands of years ago, this was a very complex way to approach health care and is amazingly similar to how we look at it today.


Ancient Egyptian Medicine Pt 1

In Sickness and in Health: Preventative and Curative Health Care
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If one had to be ill in ancient times, the best place to do so would probably have been Egypt. Not that an Egyptian's chances of survival would have been significantly better than those of his foreign contemporaries, but at least people had the satisfaction of being treated by physicians whose were renowned all over the ancient world.

Unlike the injuries caused by accidents or fighting, which were dealt with by the zwn.w (sunu), or scorpion stings and snake bites for which the xrp srqt (kherep serqet), the exorcist of Serqet, knew the appropriate spells and remedies, illnesses and their causes were mysterious. The Egyptians explained them as the work of the gods, caused by the presence of evil spirits or their poisons, and cleansing the body was the way to rid the body of their influence.

Incantations, prayers to the gods - above all to Sekhmet the goddess of healing, curses, and threats, often accompanied by the injection of nasty smelling and tasting medicines into the various bodily orifices, were hoped to prove effective.

Montemhet, 4th prophet of Amen, put his faith in the god he served:
==================================

I bow down to your (i.e. Amen's) name
May it be my physician,
May it drive pain away from me.
Statue inscription of Montemhet, Third Intermediate Period

M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume III, p.30
==========================================

Preventive measures included prayers and various kinds of magic, above all the wearing of amulets. The importance of the diet was partially recognized [30], and the natural human craving for diversity and rich well-irrigated soil resulted in a diet which was mostly reasonably balanced: carbohydrates from cereals, vitamins from fruit and vegetables, and proteins mostly from fish. Milk and milk products were just occasionally consumed, as were legumes, seeds and oil.

The Egyptian priest-physician, wab sxmt (wab sekhmet), had a number of important functions. First, to discover the nature of the particular entity possessing the person and then attack, drive it out, or otherwise destroy it. This was done by some powerful magic for which rituals, spells, incantations, talismans and amulets were used. Sekhmet priests seem also to have been involved in the prevention of plagues, inspection of sacrificial animals and even veterinary medicine. Other healers like the zwn.w (sunu) and the za.w (sau) seem to have had recourse to the same methods and scriptures as the wab.

The role deities and their servants played in the healing process is described in the apocryphal story of Bentresh, a daughter of the chief of Bekhten, who fell ill, and Ramses II sent her Thutemhab, a scribe experienced in his heart, who can write with his finger. After Thutemhab had seen the princess and concluded that she was possessed of a spirit, he returned to Egypt, and Khonsu-in-Thebes-Beautiful-Rest agreed [51] that Khonsu-the-Plan-maker, the great god, smiting the evil spirits should be sent to Bekhten:


This god arrived in Bekhten in a full year and five months. Then the chief of Bekhten came, with his soldiers and his nobles, before Khonsu-the-Plan-Maker. He threw himself upon his belly, saying: "Thou comest to us, thou art welcome with us, by command of the King Usermare-Setepnere (Ramses II)."

Then this god went to the place where Bentresh was. Then he wrought the protection of the daughter of the chief of Bekhten. She became well immediately.


Tale written down in the late first millennium BCE
James Henry Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Three

============================================

Physical medicines such as herbs were mostly expected to assuage the pain only, while magic effected the cure. A section in the Papyrus Ebers is about charms and invocations used to encourage healing. One spell, recited before taking an herbal remedy, reads as follows: "Come Remedy! Come thou who expellest (evil) things in this my stomach and in these my limbs!"

The wording of these spells is often followed by a recommendation, such as: "Truly excellent. Millions of times."

Not all of Egyptian medicine was based on wishful thinking (moreover we should never disregard the effect faith can have on our health), much was the result of experimentation and observation, and physical means supplemented the magical ones:
Magic is effective together with medicine. Medicine is effective together with magic.

Apart from spiritual healing and herbal medicine, they practiced massage.

Examination of a woman aching in her legs and her calves after walking
You should say of it 'it is discharges of the womb'.
You should treat it with a massage of her legs and calves with mud until she is well.

Manipulation made extensive use of therapeutic herbs and foods, but surgery was only rarely part of their treatments. According to Herodotus there was a high degree of specialization among physicians:

The practice of medicine is very specialized among them. Each physician treats just one disease. The country is full of physicians, some treat the eye, some the teeth, some of what belongs to the abdomen, and others internal diseases.

Herodotus, Histories 2,84
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Nothing certain is known about the way physicians acquired their medical knowledge, but one surmises that after (or in parallel to) their formation as scribes they were apprenticed to practicing healers. It has also been suggested that the Houses of Life, associated with Sekhmet, were teaching centers for physicians.

When Harsiese, the fictional physician in the prologue to the Instruction of Ankhsheshonq was called to the royal court he underwent some quizzing by the king himself and then became a member of the medical team looking after the pharaoh:

Pharaoh asked him many things and he answered them all. of the chief physician and the chief physician did nothing without consulting Harsiese son of Ramose about it. A few days later it happened that the chief physician went to his fathers (i.e. died) Harsiese son of Ramose was made chief physician, and he was given everything that belonged to the chief physician entirely.

The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq
M. Lichtheim: Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol. 3, p.161

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Like all scribal professions medicine was a domain dominated by men. But occasionally women succeeded not just in acquiring medical knowledge but also in climbing to the top of the scribal hierarchy.

An Old Kingdom female physician named Peseshet left a stela which recorded her positions of Overseer of Funerary Priestesses and of Overseer of Female Physicians.

Many of the poorer Egyptians probably had little contact with real physicians and called for the local medic, a workman like Paheripedjet at Deir el Medina who was frequently excused from his normal duties to attend to the sick. He seems to have had some medical knowledge, knew how to prepare medicines and made home visits.
The medical knowledge.

A few papyri have survived, from which we can learn about Egyptian medicine:

Describing surgical diagnosis and treatments

the Ebers Papyrus on ophthalmology, diseases of the digestive system, the head, the skin and specific maladies like aAa, which some think may have been a precursor of aids and others, perhaps more reasonably, consider to have been a disease of the urinary tract, a compilation of earlier works that contains a large number of prescriptions and recipes,

the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus,
the Berlin Medical Papyrus,
the London Medical Papyrus.

the Hearst medical papyrus repeats many of the recipes found in the Ebers papyrus.
the Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden contains a number of spells for treating physical ailments.

The treatments in these texts are often organized into groups. The Edwin Smith Papyrus for instance opens with eight texts concerning head wounds, followed by nineteen treatments of wounds to the face (forehead, eyebrows, nose, cheeks, temples, mouth, chin), six descriptions of how to deal with injuries to throat and neck, five dealing with collar-bones and arms, and seven with chest complaints.

It appears that all this knowledge dates to the third millennium BCE, even though the papyrus itself is of a much later date. Some important notions concerning the nervous system originated with the Egyptians, a word for brain is used here for the first time in any written language: . the membrane enveloping his brain, so that it breaks open his fluid in the interior of his head.

The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 6
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Acting conservatively, they knew how to treat injuries to the brain without killing the patient, but on the whole their understanding of the brain and its functions was superficial: they considered thinking to be a function of the heart.

Their dissection of bodies during mummification seems not to have added greatly to their knowledge of the inner workings of the human body. Possibly because mummifiers and physicians did not move in the same circles, but also because of the way the organs were removed ripped out through a small incision in the corpse's flank or, in the case of the brain, scooped out in small portions through a nostril.

They had some anatomical knowledge though, had made the connection between pulse and heart. They also had understanding of the circulation of the blood, thank to head physician and genius Imhotep.

Now if the priests of Sekhmet or any physician put his hands (or) his fingers upon the head , upon the back of the head upon the two hands , upon the pulse , upon the two feet , he measures (h't ) the heart , because its vessels are in the back of the head and in the pulse and because its pulsation is in every vessel of every member.


The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 1
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This knowledge reached Greece through the doctors of Alexandria. The anatomical properties they were best aware of were superficial, pertaining to accessible body parts such as bones of limbs or the infants' fontanelles
fluttering under the fingers like the weak place of an infant's crown before it becomes whole


The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 6

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Often we cannot translate the specialist expressions used in the medical texts, both of the affected body parts such as the mt.w, generally translated as "vessels" or the like and apparently comprising blood vessels, sinews and nerves, and the ingredients of their medicines. Sometimes their knowledge was either not very exact or unfortunately expressed. One will wonder for a few moments underneath what the bronchi were to be found:


"A dislocation in his two collar-bones" means a displacement of the heads of his sickle-bone(s). Their heads are attached to the upper bone of his breast to his throat, over which is the flesh of his gorge, that is the flesh that is over his bosom. Two ducts (i.e. the bronchi) are under it: one on the right and (one) on the left of his throat (and) of his bosom they lead to his lungs.

That this theoretical knowledge was often successfully applied is proven by archaeological finds in the workers' tombs at Gizeh for instance. Skeletons with broken arms that had been set, a man who had survived the amputation of a leg by fourteen years and another brain surgery by two years.

Everyday complaints like stomach upsets, bowel trouble and headaches went probably mostly untreated, even if the physicians could offer remedies:
For the evacuation of the belly:
Cow's milk, 1 .grains, 1 honey 1 mash, sift, cook take in four portions.

To remedy the bowels:
Melilot (?), 1 dates, 1 cook in oil anoint sick part.

To refresh an aching head:
Flour, 1 incense, 1 wood of wa, 1 waneb plant, 1 mint (?), 1 horn of a stag, 1 sycamore (?) seeds, 1 seeds of [ (?)], 1 mason's plaster (?), 1 seeds of zart, 1 water, 1 mash, apply to the head.

To renew bowel movements in a constipated child:
An old book, boil in oil, apply half on the belly to reestablish evacuation.


G. Maspero, Etudes de mythologie et d'achéologie égyptiennes III, 1898, pp.289f.
The common cold plagued the ancient Egyptians as it still does us today, and their remedy, the milk of a mother who has given birth to a boy, was probably as effective as anything we have got today. Moreover they had a tried and true spell to go with it.


May you flow out, catarrh, son of catarrh, who breaks the bones, who destroys the skull, who hacks in the marrow, who causes the seven openings in the head to ache.

While some Egyptians lived to a ripe old age like Ramses II or Psalmist I's daughter Nitocris who reigned as God's Wife for more than sixty years, the age at death was only in a minority of cases above thirty-five years, with bilharziasis (schistosomiasis) - a disease difficult not to contract in a country flooded for months every year - a common cause of anemia, female infertility, a debilitating loss of resistance to other diseases and subsequent death.


The Ebers Papyrus addresses some of the symptoms of the disease and in two columns discusses treatment and prevention of bleeding in the urinal tract (haematuria) [6]. The Hearst Papyrus cites antimony disulfide as a remedy.

Insect borne diseases like malaria and trachoma, an eye disease, were endemic plagues spread along the trade routes and a number of yadet renpet (jAd.t rnp.t) epidemics reported in Egyptian documents are thought by some to have been outbreaks of bubonic plague.


The following charm has been interpreted as referring to the plague, as one of its symptoms is a dark discoloration of the skin:

Spell for the disease of the Asiatics: Who is all-knowing like Re? Who is thus all-knowing? This god who blackens the body with char-coal? May this Highest God be seized!
pHearst 11,12

After a German translation in Jürgen Kraus, Die Demographie des Alten Ägypten, Göttingen 2004, p.187


Mosquitoes also spread filarial worms which caused the disfiguring elephantiasis.
This disease was not very prevalent but caused immense suffering to its victims.
Infectious diseases were rampant in the relatively densely populated Nile valley, where practically the whole population lived within a narrow strip of land along the river, which at times was only a few hundred metres wide, and their incidence was dependent to some degree on the seasons.


Smallpox, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, jaundice and relapsing fever were responsible for many deaths, above all during spring and summer. The ubiquity of water during the inundation brought with it a different set of ailments, chief among them probably malaria, which were the main cause for mortality in late autumn while the cooler weather of autumn and winter seems to have favored the outbreak of respiratory illnesses.


A child's vertebra showing signs of tubercular infection
Source: V.Easy

Trichinae afflicted the pigs, parasitic worms and tuberculosis the cattle and were occasionally passed on to the human population. Human tuberculosis was widespread Leprosy on the other hand, caused by bacteria similar to the tubercle bacillus, is badly documented and was apparently relatively rare, possibly because of an immunity TB sufferers acquired. Some think that leprosy originated in Egypt and spread to the Levant and Europe along the migration and trade routes, others contend that there is no proof of its existence in ancient times.


Silicosis of the lungs, the result of breathing in airborne sand particles, is documented and was a frequent cause of death, as was pneumonia.
The various kinds of malignant tumors were almost as frequent then as they are nowadays in comparable age and gender groups.


Eye infections are a common complaint in Africa. In ancient Egypt they were at least in part prevented by the application of bactericidal eye paint. The ingredients of some of the remedies may not have been as difficult to come by in a civilization, where the brain of the dead was removed in little bits from the skull during mummification and discarded, as it would be in a modern western country:
Prescription for the eye, to be used for all diseases which occur in this organ:
Human brain, divide into its two halves, mix one half with honey, smear on the eye in the evening, dry the other half, mash, sift, smear on the eye in the morning.


Ebers Papyrus
G. Maspero, Etudes de mythologie et d'achéologie égyptiennes III, 1898, p.290.

The hard physical toil, often repetitive, caused great harm to the bones and joints of the labourers after only a few years of being subjected to it. Those who survived into old age were victims of the same infirmities that still plague the aged like cardio-vascular diseases, arthritis, from which Ramses II suffered, and probably dementia.


Congenital diseases were not infrequent and often brought about early death as the burials of infants bear out. Their causes may have been environmental, nutritional or social.

Inbreeding, not infrequent among the royals, was probably also not rare among the common people largely bound to the soil: the occurrence of a sixth finger or toe in mummies, interpreted by some as the result of inbreeding, has been noted a number of times, as has the high incidence of spina bifida occulta in the Bahariye Oasis during Graeco-Roman times but there is no evidence that the union of healthy close relatives would result in defective offspring in populations which are not isolated.


Open wounds were often treated with honey, but sepsis was one of the commonest causes of death. When lockjaw set in due to a tetanus infection, physicians knew they were powerless against this affliction:


Thou shouldst say regarding him: "One having a gaping wound in his head penetrating to the bone, perforating the sutures of his skull he has developed ty, his mouth is bound, (and) he suffers with stiffness in his neck. An ailment not to be treated."


The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 7

Instances of diseases, which are rare today, were also found: in a First Intermediate Period cemetery at Abydos the skeleton of a child has been discovered which had suffered from osteoporosis.

Little is known about pregnancy and childbirth in ancient Egypt, and on the basis of a few literary hints one surmises that, unless there were extraordinary problems, physicians were not involved. There was a store of knowledge concerning women, as is reflected in the Kahun Gynecological papyrus, the Greater Berlin Papyrus and others, which dealt with urinary problems, pains in the abdomen, legs and genitals, fertility and conception.


A restricted diet caused or aggravated a number of ailments, some with fatal outcome. There were times when malnutrition was widespread. Prehistoric dental records suggest that health was poor during much of that period, and improved with the increasing adoption of agriculture but even in historic times when the supply of food was generally assured, the growth of the population was often stunted. Grown males reached a height of about 1.60 m and females 10 cm less during the early Middle Kingdom. Because of vitamin and other deficiencies.

Herbs played a major part in Egyptian medicine. The plant medicines mentioned in the Ebers papyrus for instance include opium, cannabis, myrrh, frankincense, fennel, cassia, senna, thyme, henna, juniper, aloe, linseed and castor oil - though some of the translations are less than certain. Cloves of garlic have been found in Egyptian burial sites, including the tomb of Tutankhamen and in the sacred underground temple of the bulls at Saqqara. Many herbs were steeped in wine, which was then drunk as an oral medicine.

Egyptians thought garlic and onions aided endurance, and consumed large quantities of them. Raw garlic was routinely given to asthmatics and to those suffering with bronchial-pulmonary complaints. Onions helped against problems of the digestive system. (e.g. Ebers 192


Garlic was an important healing agent then just as it still is to the modern Egyptian and to most of the peoples in the Mediterranean area: Fresh cloves are peeled, mashed and macerated in a mixture of vinegar and water. This can be used to gargle and rinse the mouth, or taken internally to treat sore throats and toothache. Another way to take garlic both for prevention as well as treatment is to macerate several cloves of mashed garlic in olive oil.

Applied as an external liniment or taken internally it is beneficial for bronchial and lung complaints including colds. A freshly peeled clove of raw garlic wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth and pinned to the undergarment is hoped to protect against infectious diseases such as colds and influenza.


Coriander, C. Sativum (e.g. pHearst 102, 124 was considered to have cooling, stimulant, carminative and digestive properties. Both the seeds and the plant were used as a spice in cooking to prevent and eliminate flatulence, they were also taken as a tea for stomach and all kinds of urinary complaints including cystitis.

Coriander leaves were commonly added fresh to spicy foods to moderate their irritating effects. It was one of the herbs offered to the gods by the king, and seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen and in other ancient burial sites.
Cumin, Cumin cyminum (e.g. Hearst 28, 55, 125 is an umbelliferous herb indigenous to Egypt. The seeds were considered to be a stimulant and effective against flatulence.

They were often used together with coriander for flavoring. Cumin powder mixed with some wheat flour as a binder and a little water was applied to relieve the pain of any aching or arthritic joints. Powdered cumin mixed with grease or lard was inserted as an anal suppository to disperse heat from the anus and stop itching.


Leaves from many plants, such as willow, sycamore, acacia (e.g. Ebers 105, 415 or the ym-tree, were used in poultices and the like (e.g. Smith 46. Tannic Acid derived from acacia seeds commonly helped for cooling the vessels (e.g. pHearst 95, and heal burns. Castor oil, (e.g. Ebers 25 and 251 figs (e.g. Ebers 41 and dates, were used as laxatives.

Tape worms, the snakes in the belly, were dealt with by an infusion of pomegranate root in water, which was strained and drunk. The alkaloids contained in it paralyzed the worms' nervous system, and they relinquished their hold. Ulcers were treated with yeast, as were stomach ailments.


Some of the medicines were made from plant materials imported from abroad. Mandrake (e.g. pHearst 109, 168, 185, introduced from Canaan and grown locally since the New Kingdom, was thought to be an aphrodisiac and, mixed with alcohol, induced unconsciousness.

Cedar oil, an antiseptic,originated in the Levant. The Persian henna was grown in Egypt since the Middle Kingdom, and - if identical with henu mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus - was used against hair loss. They treated catarrh with aloe which came from eastern Africa. Frankincense , containing tetrahydrocannabinol and used like hashish as pain killer (e.g. Kahun 12, was imported from Punt.

Minerals and animal products were used too. Honey and grease formed part of many wound treatments, mother's milk was occasionally given against viral diseases like the common cold, fresh meat laid on open wounds and sprains, and animal dung was thought to be effective at times.


A cosmetics jar at the Cairo Museum bears the legend: "Eye lotion to be dispersed, good for eyesight." An Egyptian papyrus from 1500 BCE discusses recipes for treating conjunctivitis and cornea, iris, and eyelid problems. Lead-based chemicals like carbonates and acetates were popular for their therapeutic properties.


Malachite used as an eye-liner also had therapeutic value. In a country where eye infections were endemic, the effects of its germicidal qualities were appreciated even if the reasons for its effectiveness were not understood.


The Origins of Greek Medicine

The ancient Greeks didn't invent the art of medicine rather, they had a large body of preexisting medical lore and knowledge to draw on. Their distinctive genius lay in their ability to distill and refine all this medical knowledge into a new systematization and synthesis.
Most medical historians now agree that the main source and reservoir of medical knowledge that the ancient Greeks drew upon came from Egypt, whose civilization was already old and well-established as the Golden Age of classical Greece was dawning. But exactly how this medical knowledge was transmitted from Egypt to Greece is still disputed.
Many medical scholars maintain that the Minoan civilization on Crete served as the intermediary in this transmission. But two other figures also stand out in this regard: Pythagoras and Thales. Pythagoras is known to have traveled widely, and Thales received his medical training in Egypt.
As with Greek Medicine, the origins of Egyptian Medicine lie in religion and spirituality. The Egyptian god of medicine was Imhotep, whose basic role and function roughly corresponded to that of Asclepius. Prayers and supplications were made to him and other gods for healing intercessions, and it was believed that the gods intervened in matters of health and disease.
In spite of these religious origins, Egyptian Medicine was mostly rational and scientific. Blood was considered to be an important nutritive and regulatory substance, and the heart was considered to be the center of the circulatory system. The influence of respiratory patterns on blood circulation was also widely recognized.
The ancient Egyptians wrote many medical papyri, which were filled with medical recipes that were attributed to Imhotep, the legandary god and founder of their medical system. Other medical papyri discuss the effects of various drugs and the classification and systematization of diseases and their symptoms. The most famous of these medical papyri is the Ebers Papyrus.
The personal hygiene of the ancient Egyptians was impeccable. They bathed twice a day and anointed themselves with perfumes and medicated oils. They boiled their water to sterilize it before drinking, and never ate pork, as it was considered to be unclean. For similar reasons, women never engaged in sex during their menstrual periods.
Specialists abounded for just about every field of medical practice. Each part of the body had its own specialist who attended to it.

Reconhecimentos:
Traditional Greco-Arabic and Modern Western Medicine: Conflict or Symbiosis?
by Hakim Mohammed Said Copyright 1975 by Hamdard Academy - Karachi, Pakistan
pp. 2 - 4


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