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Medicine in Ancient Egypt


Ancient Egyptians were advanced in their knowledge of the human body. Due to the fact that they mummified bodies, they had a good understanding of internal organs. Since their religion did not forbid opening up dead bodies, they were able to study the systems of the body


The first pharaoh was believed to have written a paper on human anatomy. Ancient documents about Egyptian society show that the Vizier Imhotep was a famous doctor. He is most known for building the step pyramid for the Pharaoh Djoser; yet Imhotep was so well known as a doctor, he was worshiped as a god of medicine by both the Egyptians and the Greeks.


Early medicine in Egypt was practiced by the chief magician of the village. Later, healers also served as priests at the temples. The two most famous temples associated with healing were Imhotep’s Chapel at Saqqara and later the Temple of Deir el Bahri. The highest level a healer could reach in Ancient Egypt was known as Wabau. A Wabau specialized in specific areas of the body for cures.


The Egyptians used a combination of scientific-based cures and cures based on superstition and magic. For injuries, such as a fall or a cut, they used appropriate cures such as splints or bandages. For diseases, where the diagnosis was uncertain, they believed the gods had caused the illness. Magical cures were developed to combat unexplained illnesses. Sometimes they believed demons were afflicting the patients. These patients were given very unpleasant concoctions to drive the demons away. Some concoctions contained items such as “fats and blood of various animals as well as ground up horns, bones and hoofs, the whole dissolved in water, milk, wine or beer and sweetened with honey to lessen the disgust” (David 1988, pg. 115).


As time went on, Egyptian doctors progressed more toward scientific-based medicine and cures. However, they did continue to resort to magical cures when the cause of an illness was unclear.



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