Ancient Egypt is one of the most amazing and awe-inspiring civilizations the world has ever known. While we might think about pharaohs, mummies, and the pyramids first, there was much more to ancient Egyptian life. In fact, if we're thinking only about the people who were important enough to be pharaohs or to be mummified, we're ignoring 99% of ancient Egyptians! One of the most incredible things the ancient Egyptians did was to create the foundation for some of the modern medical practices we see today. Read on for more information about how we have the ancient Egyptians to thank for some of what we can still see practiced in modern medicine.
One of the most important things to remember when studying ancient Egyptian medical practice is that medicine and ancient religion were two sides of the same coin. In fact, one of the major responsibilities of ancient Egyptian healers was to identify the spirit that was invading a sick persona and to know what treatment would drive that spirit out. When you think about it, though, if you didn't know about germs and viruses, this is likely the best way to approach medical maladies. In many ways, it's simply a matter of semantics. Rather than calling an illness by its name, they were referred to in religious terms, but the idea that there were certain proven treatments proven to cure these ailments has not changed. It was further the responsibility of these healers to know what herbs would cure these ailments, in much the same way as modern doctors.
Did you know that we knew very little about ancient Egyptian medical practices before the 20th century? The fact was, there were precious few records of how people practiced medicine in ancient Egypt, and so what little we thought we knew was based mostly on conjecture. During the last century, however, we discovered some of the oldest texts in the world, and these helped to shed light on the ancient Egyptian world. With names such as the Edwin Smith Papyrus and the Ebers Papyrus, these texts contained detailed records of Egyptian medical practices such as surgery, diagnoses, and treatment.
So what were ancient Egyptian healers tasked with healing? Well, many of the same diseases we deal with today, though they didn't have all the tools available to them that we have today. Some of the treatments, such as the milk of a mother who has given birth to a boy, might seem ridiculous today, but remember that the ancient Egyptians were working with what they had, and much of what they knew was a mixture of experimentation and religion. So, while it might seem silly to think that an upset stomach would be cured by boiling an old book in oil and rubbing the oil on a child's stomach to cure constipation, remember that many other treatments more closely resembled what you might see in a doctor's office today. The fact is, most illnesses went untreated for a lack of resources and knowledge, and the average lifespan of an ancient Egyptian was just 35.
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