Medicine in Ancient Egypt was mixed with magic. Back then, there was no clear dividing line between science and religion.
Diseases were often believed to have been commanded by the gods, as punishments, or to be evil spirits that were in the body and had to be expelled through rituals, spells, and amulets.
But all this was combined with a very practical medicine and some of the methods they used have survived the passage of time.
Although we suspect that much knowledge was lost in misfortunes such as the disappearance of the Royal Library of Alexandria, we are aware that its rich culture, which flourished for more than 3,000 years before the Christian era, was tremendously advanced.
Despite this, it is still surprising what ancient Egyptians already knew in the field of medicine. Here are some examples.
The ancient Egyptians learned a lot about human anatomy thanks to their tradition of mummification.
By preparing the dead for their journey to the afterlife, they could see the parts of the body and associate them with the diseases they had suffered in life.
That allowed them to understand enough to do surgeries, traces of which have been found in mummies, from trepanation (skull piercing) to tumor removal.
As much as they tried to clean and grind the grains well to make flour, small pieces of stone would sneak into the meals, as well as some desert sand.
That wasted teeth and could lead to gaping and infection.
In the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest known medical treatises, there are several recipes for fillers and ointments.
One of them describes how to treat a “tooth that itches to the skin’s opening”: cumin, 1 part; incense resin, 1 part; fruit, 1 part.
Some recipes included honey, which is antiseptic. In other cases they simply covered the holes with linen.
The ancient Egyptians needed prosthetics for both the living and the dead … and perhaps the latter were more important.
It was believed that in order to return the body in the afterlife, it had to be whole, hence the importance of mummification and of completing what was missing before the trip.
But they also served the living, as today, to function more easily
The most famous of the prosthetics is the finger that is in the photo. It is known that the woman who had it used it in life. It is the oldest known prosthesis
Circumcision has been practiced throughout history in various societies for medical and / or religious reasons.
In Ancient Egypt the practice was widespread, so much so that an uncircumcised penis was a curiosity.
Government controlled medical system
Access to medical care was very well controlled by the government in Ancient Egypt.
There were medical institutes that trained doctors, who were educated following a specific curriculum. Those institutes received patients and treated them.
There were also medical manuals, such as the mentioned Ebers Papyrus, in which ailments and treatments were recorded.
There are also descriptions of medical camps set up near construction sites and quarries to care for workers who suffered accidents.
There are also indications that if the accident occurred on the job and was unable to work, the worker received a payment.