Ancient Egyptian Medicine
CAIRO, APRIL 2008: Ancient Egyptian civilization has contributed significant developments to all kinds of human knowledge, and medicine is not an exception. Ancient Egyptians used to call a doctor a “physician” referring to an active, a professional and a wise person. A physician was able to deal with what might happen during daily practice as competently as a countryside general practitioner would do today. The physician’s job was not only to attend sick people and to recommend a treatment but also a physician would prepare and dispense medication. The physician was usually a priest and perhaps with good knowledge of other arts. Ancient Egyptians were the first known people to have had a detailed study of medicine and to leave written records to describe the healing practices. The oldest Egyptian medical texts date back nearly to 2000 B.C. These texts were reasonably free of the magician approach to treat illness. The earliest known physician in history was Hesyre, who was the “Chief dentist and Physician” of King Djoser in the 27th Century BC. The earliest known female physician was also an Egyptian. Peseshet practiced medicine during the period of the fourth dynasty (2600 B.C). Her title was “Lady Overseer of the Lady Physicians”. As well as practicing medicine, Peseshet had a supervisory position and graduated many midwives at the ancient medical school in Sais (Sa el-Hagar today). Conception of the human body:
Ancient Egyptians tried to rationalize and understand the physiology of the human body. Given how important River Nile was for life, Ancient Egyptians would suppose likeness to the flow of the mighty river and to how it irrigated the fields. They assumed the human body, by analogy, had channels that flowed with blood, breathed air and water. People would fall sick if a blockage to these channels happened. For example, they believed that bad food would produce gases, which in turn would block these channels. They, therefore, assumed that most of the diseases were because of improperly digested food. Notions of physiology and disease focused on the heart as the center of the human. The heart was one’s partner; it spoke to a person in his or her solitude. It was at the same time the engine of all the bodily work, not only circulation. From the heart, continued channels (Metu) linked all parts of the body together. Metu did not refer only to blood vessels, but also to the respiratory tube, ducts of various glands, spermatic duct, the muscles, tendons and ligaments. The Goddess of medicine (Sekhmet):
Sekhmet was originally the warrior Goddess of Upper Egypt. Ancient Egyptians figured her as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to them. They believed that her pant created the arid region beyond the Nile banks, and considered Sekhmet the protector of all Pharaohs. The name Sekhmet became synonymous to the Goddess of Medicine during the Middle Kingdom. Therefore, physicians, dentists and veterinary practitioners were the “Priests of Sekhmet”. The head of lioness symbolized power and the supreme deity of healing. The priests of Sekhmet were the specialists in medicine and surgery. Medical training:
Students learned the medical profession at schools called the “Houses of Life”. The tutors had given them some applied experience, but mainly the students had to learn from the written papyri...