Egyptian manuscripts reveal details of ancient medical practices
Egyptian texts in the collection of the University of Copenhagen, which have not previously been translated, have revealed a rare and fascinating insight into scientific and medical practices thousands of years ago. The papyrus scrolls contain the oldest known medical discussion of the kidneys, remarks on the treatment of eye diseases or a description of a pregnancy test.
The University of Copenhagen has a unique collection of ancient Egyptian manuscriptsow. Much of the collection has not yet been translated, and researchers do not know what the papyrus scrollsow may include. Those translated, in turn, have not been published. These are texts on medical science, botany, astronomy and other sciences practiced in ancient Egypt.
Carlsberg’s extensive papyrus collection contains about 1,400 manuscriptsow. Most of them were written before the advent of our era. The oldest texts have nearly 4 thousand. years. Only a small part of them has been translated. The manuscripts are currently being studied and translated by an international group of specialistsow. Texts on them provide new and exciting insights into ancient Egypt.
One of the four osob working on the unpublished manuscripts is Amber Jacob of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. The work is led by Egyptologist Kim Ryholt, whoory is head of Carlsberg Papyrus collection. Jacob’s research focuses on medical texts from the temple library of Thebtynis, ktora existed long before the famous Library of Alexandria, until 200 p.n.e. In one of the textsow found evidence that the ancient Egyptians knew of the existence of kidneys.
– This is the oldest known medical text discussing kidney. So far someoers believed that the Egyptians did not know about the kidneys, but in this text we can clearly see that they had some idea about them after all,” said Jacob.
Papyri roThey also reveal insights into the Egyptian view of astrology. – Today, astrology is seen as a pseudoscience, but in ancient times it was an important tool for predicting the future and was considered a central branch of science, Ryholt explained. – For example, a ruler before starting hostilities had to check whether it was a good day for war – added. Astrology was their way of avoiding bad luck by starting activities on the wrong day, for example, when the heavenly bodies were aligned in a certain configuration.
– Unpublished manuscripts provide unique insight into the history of science. When you hear about the history of science, you often focus on Greek and Roman material. But we also have Egyptian material, ktory is earlier. One of the textow medical in our collections was written 3,500 years ago, when there was no written materialow on the European continent – added.
Analyzing the text from 3500 years ago fell to Sofie Schiødt from the University of Copenhagen. – One page of the manuscript describes unusual methods of treating diseaseob eyes – noted Schiødt. The second, on the other hand, contains a description of the ancient equivalent of a pregnancy test.
– Text mowi that a pregnant woman should pee into a bag of barley and into a second bag of wheat. Depending on whichore seeds germinate earlier, it will reveal the sex of the child. And if nothing germinates, the woman is not pregnant – explained Schiødt.
Her research shows that ideas recorded in Egyptian medical texts spread far beyond the African continent. – Many ideasoin contained in medical texts from ancient Egypt reappears in poMore recent Greek and Roman texts. Since then they spread further to medieval textoin medical, but their traces can also be found in poToday – admitted Schiødt.
The same wayob for a pregnancy test, with ktohe Egyptians used is mentioned in a collection describing German folklore from 1699. – This really puts things into perspective, as it shows that Egyptian ideas have left traces of thousands of years poLater – said Schiødt.
– We still have a very fragmented knowledge of natural sciences in ancient Egypt. Therefore, every single contribution is important. Today there are still many sources ofode³, whichore theoretically known to scientists for a long time, but still stand dusty in the rożeral collections around the world, and no one particularlyołowo failed to investigate. Now is the time for it – Said Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert, an Egyptologist at the University of Leipzig.
Sourceobackground: Science Nornic, Live Science, photo, The Carlsberg Papyrus Collection / University of Copenhagen