Philosophy and Practice of Medicine in Ancient Egypt

♪ [music playing–
no dialogue]♪ I’m Allen Lanham, I’m
dean of library services and it’s a pleasure
to welcome you here to the library, or back
to the library for some of you today, and we
continue our series of “A Futuristic Look
Through Ancient Lenses”. We’re studying, this month,
ancient Egypt and we have looked at the building of the pyramids
last Thursday, we have looked at geological digs on Friday, then
on Monday we had a variety of activities including
two lectures on religion and the development of
religions, tracing them back to ancient Egypt. We also, that day, went
into geography and geology of the country, especially
a tomb to ancient aquifers and other things that we
might not know about today. We’ve looked at documenting life
since the ancient civilization times, and yesterday we went
through myths of ancient Egypt. Today, we studied women this
morning, and the place, the role of women in ancient
Egyptian society, and on a variety of levels I might add
and they’re in your program. But tonight we’re going into
a new realm, and that is of medicine, so you can see if
you stick with us throughout the month–in the four or five
weeks that we’re studying this topic–you will see ancient
Egypt from so many facets that you will have a much better
understanding of the whole and tonight will
be no exception. We’re adding to
your knowledge here. We thank the college of sciences
and the biological sciences department for helping us
with this presentation. This series, this symposium
continues throughout the month and I request that you take
a program in the back and check other opportunities. We still have many things to
study and we’ve left out a lot, so we will continue to traipse
through the period. And to present our speaker
I would introduce Dr. Wafeek Wahby,
an Egyptian himself, who will introduce our speaker. >> Dr. Wafeek Wahby:
Thank you, Dean Lanham. [audience applause] Thank you all for coming
at this time of the day and this day of the week. You have lots of things, I’m
sure, you can do and use your time doing it but thanks for
coming and I hope you’ll be rewarded as you go out of this
door better persons, better knowledge and knowing more
and in continuation to what Dean Lanham said, this
symposium is not intended to tell people everything
because we cannot. It’s just like the
[unclear dialogue] that you have, and each
seminar or session– we have 17 of them and
we have 24 speakers– they will give you the key to
the room, so each is a key. So if you like it, you take
the key and own your own you open the door and spend
as much time as you can. When I took some students back
then to Egypt, I told them in 16 days you’ll see what other
people see in 60 days because we’ll start at 5 o’clock in the
morning, finish at 10:30 in the evening and we’ll
go fast, fast, fast. Register here what you’d like
to see in the next visit but at least we covered
a lot when we went. That’s the same thing, same
philosophy of the symposium. Our speaker tonight is a very
busy man and I didn’t want to start with this because
everybody is busy, but I consider Kip a blessing. I mean, maybe this is the first
time I say it in front of him, I say it on his back before that
when I see him in any place, at a distance, I feel
peace and I feel that everything is alright. Something about him is peaceful. He’s so, enough
peace inside that [unclear dialogue],
I don’t know why. I don’t know how many of
you would say that, but let me acknowledge Carol, his
wife–thank you for coming– and let me also acknowledge
[unclear dialogue]. He is a fan of this program
from 15 years ago. He comes and appears
and his hair didn’t change a
bit, same color. And let me acknowledge Tom
Woodall for taking the trouble and time to bring our friend. So in a nutshell, I’ll not say
that our speaker is a great speaker or is a nice person
or a blessing or anything of these things, but I’ll ask him
to do the difficult task of talking about philosophy. That’s not tangible,
these are tangibles, but philosophy is not. It’s all yours now. Thank you. [audience applause] >> Dr. Kip McGilliard:
Well thank you for coming. Dr. Wahby is a good friend of
mine and he’s also a very persuasive recruiter, and so I
want to start out by saying I am no expert on ancient Egyptian
medicine but I do love to learn and so this gave me an
opportunity to learn many things that I will share with you and
hopefully that will encourage you to want to learn
new things as well– if not about this culture,
then about other cultures and if not about medicine,
then about other fields, but learning is an
exciting part of being in the university community and
I’m glad you’re here today. So the title of my talk is “The
Philosophy and Practice of Ancient Egyptian Medicine”,
and we’ll just kind of take you back to ancient Egypt. My daughter, by the way,
wants to visit ancient Egypt and I haven’t been able to
quite get it clear to her that maybe we have to visit
modern Egypt rather than ancient Egypt, but there
are opportunities, as this seminar for
example to do such. So this is a civilization that
far exceeded, in development, other groups that were existing
at the same time elsewhere nearby and we also know more
about the Egyptian culture than about other
cultures of that time, and there are several
reasons for that. One of them is the
development of language and the use of that language. Another is their arts
and the way that their works of art have persisted. Their buildings is another
reason, and some of what I’ll share has been gleaned from
those sources and then the one unique source is the process of
preserving the dead, which you know about as Egyptian mummies,
and so through all of this are able to gain a lot of insight
into ancient Egypt and ancient Egyptian medicine. We’ve had some excellent talks
already that shared some aspects of this civilization and I’ll
touch on a few of those aspects as we go through, but one thing
is Egyptian society was ruled by [unclear dialogue] called
papyri, and of course many of those stones have survived
and miraculously some of the papyrus writings have
also survived and people who are quite smart
have been able to do very effective translations
those hieroglyphics. So from ancient writings,
we were able to learn some things about the culture
including the practice of medicine in ancient Egypt. One issue that was very
important to Egyptians was the question of immortality,
and immortality was an important part of their
religious beliefs– so important that they took
great pains to preserve bodies, to hang onto belongings. The Christian phrase is “you
can’t take it with you” while the Egyptians, I think, thought
they could and although I’m not convinced that they achieved the
kind of immortality that they dreamed of, they certainly
have achieved immortality in the sense of the continuing
of the culture, making that available to future cultures
and even of individuals. So we know Egyptians by name
from, what would it be, 4000, 5000, 6000 years
ago–know their names and some of their
characteristics. Ryan McDaniel showed this very
same picture the other day when he talked about the Christian
beliefs in ancient Egypt, and this was from “The
Book of the Dead”. Not a Christian belief but this
is one of those, this is artwork on a papyrus sheet that kind of
explains some of the story of the afterlife, and one of the
things that he pointed out and I wanted to re-emphasize is that
this individual who is named Ani, he has passed on and he’s
facing the judgement day and the scales of justice are here and
there are various gods located around and his heart is
being weighed against the feather of truth. And the idea is if his heart
is pure–so pure that it weighs less than the feather of
truth or balances the feather of truth–then he’s in and he
achieves the afterlife that he desires, but if he has anything
weighing on his heart then the balances are
going to go down. One of the reasons I put this up
here is because of the importance of the heart,
and I’ll mention that again in just a few minutes. So, in belief of the afterlife
then, it was important to preserve the remains of
individuals, and they, the Egyptians, got some clues
from what happened out in the desert environment. Now, the modern Egyptian
civilization developed in the fertile crescent along the Nile
River, so there was abundant water at least many times, and
with an irrigation system, it was a pretty green area, but
you didn’t have to go very far from there and you
were in the dry desert. Well, when an animal dies in the
desert it’s body parts dry out pretty quickly and sometimes it
could be preserved for a very long time as a consequence
of that rapid drying out, so desiccation was
an important part of this process of mummifying. So the mummies were prepared
and balmed, placed inside of elaborate cases such as this or
sometimes more simpler devices, and the desiccation
process involved packing the inner parts of the body with
a substance called natron, and natron was a combination
of sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate and that tended
to just kind of dry that tissue right out, and this can be
gleaned from the bottom of dried out lakes that had
accumulated this sodium salt. As they did this
embalming practice, they generally left the
heart and the kidneys in place in the body. The heart because
it was so important– that was integral to that
person’s personage. The kidneys, they speculate they
just sort of overlooked because they were kind of back in the
back and had a layer over the top of them, so they have just
not realized they were there, but the other internal
organs–the lungs, the intestines and so on–would
be taken out separated and placed into separate jars or
wrapped and generally placed between the legs
of the deceased. So the organs were
there, but they had been removed from the body. Interestingly, they just sucked
the brains out and discarded them–they didn’t see that they
were too much valued. Now there are a number of ways
that you can examine mummies, and one of those
ways to actually perform autopsies on mummies. Now normally an autopsy would be
performed right after someone had died, but because these
bodies were preserved, things could be learned through
autopsy afterwards. The first autopsy was performed
in 1825 in England–the first autopsy of a mummy. This is obviously a more recent
one, I think this is from the 1950s and these are
rarely done anymore because they are
so destructive. They’re invasive to the, kind
of the sacred honor of that individual, but they’re also
destructive in terms of destroying what has been
preserved in order to examine what’s there and to make
such things as tissue slices and examine under
the microscope. So this is rarely done anymore,
and fortunately there are additional techniques
that can be valuable. One of those is x-rays. This is an x-ray of a very
well-preserved specimen, and so in this case you see
the bones quite clearly and I don’t see any
particular damage. Many of the skeletons were,
had broken bones that, they were able to ascertain,
had occurred after death– in other words, during the embalming process
or basically in the process of packing people into maybe boxes
that were too small for them. So often bones
were broken either deliberately or accidentally
in order to pack them away. A much more modern technique
which reveals even more is CT scans, and with a
CT scan normally done on a living individual,
you’re put into this box and it makes a bunch of
noise and it ends up giving you a very clear view
and a series of slices, basically, of your body
and all the soft organs. Very revealing for
a living subject. For Egyptian mummies, of course,
many of these tissues have been removed or had undergone some
decay, so not quite as revealing but still more revealing
than an x-ray would be. So one of the things they
learned from the mummies was examination of the bones, and by
examining the bones you can see some differences in height
between ancient Egyptians and modern Egyptians
and modern Americans. Egyptian men typically averaged
5 foot, 2 inches tall, which is about four
inches shorter than me, and women were about
4-foot-10, so my wife and I would’ve been a
tall couple in Egypt. This is about 6 inches shorter
than the average modern American, and an interesting
thing is that the Egyptians of the dynastic era–that is
the era of the pharaohs, of the king and the pyramids
and all this–were actually about 3 1/2 inches shorter on
average than Egyptians from before the dynastic period. And the reason for this is
before the great civilization was built around the Nile Delta,
these individuals survived by hunting and so they had much
more protein in the diet. The dynastic Egyptians had
depended more on agriculture and consumption of grain so they
had a high carbohydrate diet and protein is very important
for building body structure, so they actually lost some
height as a consequence of a change of diet
away from protein. Another thing that might
explain a shortened height to some degree is the
effect of disease, and x-rays would reveal shortened
growth lines in individuals. Those growth lines are an
indication–kind of like the rings of a tree–of bone growth,
annual bone growth, and so children would frequently have,
bodies would frequently show periods of time where there was
very little growth for a year or two and that could’ve been
due to disease, serious disease of course would take its toll
on growth, or malnutrition. Now since many of these mummies
came from very privileged families, malnutrition was
probably not a likely cause for most of them, but disease
certainly would do some stunting of the growth, diseases
that, with modern medicine, we avoid for the most part. Some things about
the life of Egyptians– it came from their
literature as well as some things that could be
determined from mummies. One was the average age of
marriage for men was 15 to 20 years of age, for women it
was 12 to 13 years of age, so they kind of got started
early and that’s probably a good thing because
half of Egyptians died by the age of 34. And of course this is based
primarily on evidence from the mummies, so it’ll be a
little bit skewed because you don’t recover
everybody’s remains to be able to figure
out what went on. It was rare to live
past the age of 50. Ninety percent were dead by
the age of 50, but there were exceptions to that. For example, Ramses II
lived to be 92 years old, so it could be done but it
didn’t happen real often. I’m going to give you kind of an
exhaustive list here of various diseases that have been
diagnosed in mummies based on their examination, and
I’ll explain a few of these and their significance and
skip over a few others. But first of all affecting the
heart, one disease is pericarditis, which is an
inflammation of the outer covering of the heart. There’s evidence of
atherosclerosis, which is interesting
for two reasons. One is we see that as a modern
disease but it was actually very common back then even though
people were dying at age 50, but the other kind of puzzling
thing is that the Egyptians had a high carbohydrate diet,
very little fat in their diet and we generally associate
atherosclerosis with a high fat diet, so it didn’t match
up very well with that. Atherosclerosis of
course can lead to heart attacks and to stroke. And I should point out that
there are many diseases that you could not really diagnose by
examination of the mummies because they affect body parts
that would’ve decayed or are complex in the way they are
manifested, like diabetes. It would be hard to look at a
mummy and say well this one had diabetes and this one didn’t. The lungs were examined. It surprises me
that there was any tissue surviving
from the lungs. They were able to find
emphysema–emphysema is a lung disease where there’s a
lot of scar tissue, so that may have been some of the reason
that they were able to find it. Pneumoconiosis is a disease
of basically damage to the lung by particle matter. Think about some of the things
you’ve read about in the news with first responders at the
World Trade Center after September 11 and many of them
are developing lung disease because of the particle
matter that they inhaled when the buildings came down. Well the Egyptians had a
constant exposure to sand, and breathing sand would
pretty much be a part of their lifestyle, so that would
explain the pneumoconiosis. Pneumonia is an infection of the
lungs–common in most civilizations, helped along now
by antibiotics–and tuberculosis was common back then,
more common than now. It also affects the
bones, so it was easier to diagnose in the mummies. Kidney stones–they’re going to
hang around so you’d find those examining a mummy–and
glumerulosclerosis is kind of a hardening of the blood
vessels in the kidneys, and this is a disease that would
be associated with diabetes, so one piece of evidence
of diabetes back then. And the digestive system, most
notable would be tapeworm–they found the actual worms, found
the eggs of the tapeworms. Many of these tapeworms are
derived from other organisms like snails, which were common
in the Nile River Valley. One in particular, guinea worm,
is a worm that begins its life in the intestines. It then grows out of the
intestines and out of the skin, causing a painful eruption in
the skin, and guinea worms is a disease that The Carter Center,
The World Health Organization and several other organizations
are teaming together right now to eliminate from the world–
a very aggressive effort. I read literally an hour
ago that there are only three nations in
which guinea worm still exists–all
three in Africa. Of course you’d see
evidence of bone disease. Osteoarthritis–arthritis
of the bones–was found, and also evidence
of violent deaths. When you find a mummy with
a crushed skull you kind of get an idea ‘I think what
might’ve happened here or a piece of weaponry
sticking out of them, that generally
gives you an idea. There was also some evidence
of stroke, again going along with the athlerosclerosis. There are few cases of
cancer found in mummies. One reason might be that lack
of persistence of those kind of tissues, although some heart
cancers certainly would persist, but more likely it was rare. Two reasons–one is they’re
dying at fairly young ages and the other is they did not have
the exposure to many of the environmental contaminants that
we are constantly exposed to in modern society,
so not much cancer. Can also learn some
things about the teeth and some things about dental
medicine because the teeth are well preserved in mummies. They had few
cavities–probably had something to do with
their diet once again. They did show extreme wear
on the crowns of their teeth and this is because they
injested a lot of sand. Some of this would’ve just
gotten mixed in with their food but the other reason is that
they ground their bread or their wheat between two
stones to make bread, and so you’d have mineral material
also mixed in with the bread. Well this was a serious problem
because when you wear the enamel off of the crowns of your teeth
than it’s prone to infection, it’s very painful and that often
could be the cause of death of individuals is a tooth infection
that could not be overcome. There were even a few
rather creative dentists. Here’s a dental
bridge in a mummy. Two teeth fell out and put them
back in using a gold wire, so I’m sure that was
quite a surprise when they found that one. >> male speaker:
How did they make the hole? >> Dr. McGilliard:
Drills–they actually had drills, they’re hand
drills, voop, voop, voop. And yeah they actually had
the [unclear dialogue] drilling tools. This is, by the
way–[unclear dialogue]– this is before any
kind of anesthesia, either general or
local anesthesia. Well let’s talk a little bit
about the healers. There was a theurgic or
upper class of healers. These were mainly priests or
were designated as priests. They practiced
rituals and magic. They called on the gods for
healing and they were kind of the upper class for healers. They also would interpret the
dreams of people who were ill, thinking that that might provide
them with some clues as to how to heal these individuals. The inferior class
were the physicians. The physicians were also known
as sunu, and the sunu sometimes practiced some of the same
things as the priests but they also used a more natural means
of healing, which generally involved such things as minor
surgeries, use of ointments and various kinds of medication
that I’ll talk about later on. So these were the doctors and
these were kind of the priest magicians and they sort of all
worked together in society and provided what they could to
people who were ailing. The lowest ranks were the
bandagers–they usually learned their techniques from the
embalmers and they learned how to bandage body parts that
needed fixing–and medical trainees, or medical students,
would have been pretty low on the scale as they are kind of in
the medical establishment today. Both were managed by the
physician so they didn’t make their own diagnoses. They basically did
what the physicians recommended that they do. Well, a concept of dualism is
important in talking about ancient Egyptian medicine
because what we saw was a transition from this magical
treatment of disease to a more rational treatment of disease,
and often the two would get all intertwined with each other, so
you would use both magical remedies as well as
remedies that had a more natural approach,
all at the same time. Two main causes of
illness were recognized. One was displeasure of the
gods–you displeased the gods so they made you ill– and the
other is that there were also natural causes, so again
you just had sort of a mix of those causes. A very famous name in the
history of medicine is Imhotep. Imhotep is the first physician
known to history. This is a drawing of him. He was born around 2650 BC
in Memphis–that’s not in Tennessee–Memphis, Egypt. >> female speaker:
Was he like the inferior class physician
or [unclear dialogue]? >> Dr. McGilliard:
He was more of a priestly physician, yes, he was
more of a priestly physician. But he had some natural
aspects to his healing. He served the pharaoh Djoser who
was pharaoh for about 20 years, and he served both as
the pharaoh’s physician and also as his
chief architect. If you attended the earlier
seminar that was given by Dr. James Hoffmeier, he talked
about Imhotep being the architect and builder–not by
himself of course–but the builder of Egypt’s first, or the
world’s first, pyramid and this is the Step Pyramid at Saqqara,
which was built for Djoser. After his death, he was elevated
to the status of an Egyptian god, so he went from being
a true living individual to someone recognized
as a god of medicine. Many hundreds of statuettes
like this with Imhotep sitting, holding a scroll-because he was
also a scribe–honored him. Most of these, all of these were
made hundreds of years after his death, so they don’t actually
represent what he actually looked like but just someone’s
attempt to deify him. He was also commemorated
in a 1928 stamp in Egypt. This was a stamp honoring the
International Congress of Medicine and also celebrating
the hundredth centenary of the medical school in Cairo. There also were
female physicians, and this is unusual in these
cultures and these times. Peseshet, who is drawn here, is
recognized as the earliest known female physician and her role
was described as overseer of the female physicians, so
she was kind of in charge. There are more than 100
prominent female physicians who are named by various
scrolls in history. Now some interesting
things about anatomy and physiology–and, by the
way, I was introduced as being in the Biological Sciences
Department, which I am, but what I enjoy teaching and
what I spend most of my time teaching is physiology,
so this part was especially of interest to me. The process of embalming
offered the opportunity to study the internal organs
in a way that otherwise would not have been provided. It was because of the high
elevation, the high status of the dead, it was thought not
right to do autopsies or to do any kind of examination of
bodies after they died except in the process of embalming, so
some things could be learned during this process. Clearly the heart was the most
important organ in the body, and it serves as a sea of
intelligence and of emotion. As I mentioned before,
the brain was not seen to be of any importance. One individual did recognize
that when there was brain damage, people sometimes had
trouble walking, so they saw a connection there but that
was about as far as it went. Air was recognized
as vital to life. Of course this was thousands of
years before oxygen was discovered, and the scheme that
was laid out was air passes through the trachea and the
heart and then into the heart and the lungs, and then
it passes from the heart and the lungs through the blood
to other organs called metu, and then from the metu it
flows through secondary metu. which would be smaller vessels,
to the surface of the body, where this would then be
released as sweat or tears or semen or urine. So basically they saw a flow
that started out really pretty accurate, until you get to those
very tiny blood vessels and then they have them
going out the skin instead of the
blood circulating. Got to remember, no microscopes
at that time either–it would be thousands of years before the
capillaries would be identified. Disease was thought to be
transported as a foul substance called ukhedu to
the various organs. And you think about the things
that smell the foulest about the human body–in life and in
death–you kind of get an idea where they get this
idea of the ukhedu. So the goal of healing
then was to expel ukhedu and a good way to do that
would be through the feces. Pus was recognized as the ukhedu
trying to get out of the body, trying to escape from the body,
and so the drainage of pus was encouraged, which turns
out to be a good idea. So the buildup of ukhedu in the
organs–even a slow buildup–leads to decay of the
flesh, which we know now is aging, and so it was routine
for people to take laxatives, get those ukhedu out through the
feces so they wouldn’t build up and cause our bodies
to decay internally. Now, much of what we know about
the healing arts–most of what we know about the healing
arts–comes from various written documents, various papyruses
and I’m going to mention a few but certainly not all of them. One was called the Kahun
papyrus and I mention this because it’s recognized as
the oldest medical papyrus, and this was from 1800 BC,
and it focused primarily on gynecological diseases
and on pregnancy. I’ll mention couple of things
that came from that as well as other sources later on. The Hearst papyrus, according
to what I read, is actually older–2000 BC–but there are
doubts as to its authority and one of the reasons
for those doubts is the incredibly good
condition that it is in. But nonetheless it contained
many magical remedies that were consistent with other documents
from the time, so perhaps it was a more modern copy of a more
ancient document–hard to tell. Now, belief in the supernatural
was very important, and there were no hospitals
in ancient Egypt but temples were places of healing, so
people would go to the temple in search of help from the
physicians and priests. I won’t share all of the things
about the supernatural because I don’t know them, but I’ll
share one interesting family, and this is Isis, kind
of a mother earth god, and Osiris who is a sun god,
and together they created agriculture and the medical
arts–and by the way, now we’re in the area of myth. These are not real individuals
who lived but gods who were in Egyptian mythology. They had a son named Horus, and
Horus had healing powers and had the gift of prophecy, so it was
common in places of healing to have statues of Horus. Many of them had Horus standing
on a crocodile, and I didn’t get quite the connection of that
one–I’m still kind of curious about that one. Now Isis was important because
she reassembled the parts of her husband, Osiris, when he was
hacked to pieces by his evil brother, and that’s pretty
impressive healing powers to be able to put someone together
after they’ve been hacked apart. So she became one of the
goddesses of healing, and their son Horus also
had his own powers that came kind of the hard way. One thing was he was bitten by a
snake when he was young and he was then healed by another
healing god named Thoth, and from that point on he was
immune to snake bites, so he was one that they frequently
turned to for healing– or his image, his
statue for example– for healing of snake bites. He also is reported to have had
an eye destroyed in a battle, and that eye was restored back
to health as well, so he’s also the patron god of eye doctors,
so Horus had kind of a rough time of it–again this is in
mythology–but he always was healed, he always
bounced back and so he was recognized as a very
important figure in healing. Amulets were often worn or
carried by individuals to help them either ward off diseases or
to provide healing for diseases. Here are some examples, museum
pieces–really beautiful pieces of art–showing different
body parts or animals– hippopotamus and beetles there. The Tawaret is kind
of interesting. This is a figure of a
hippo standing upright, and Taweret was the
goddess of fertility. There’s Horus and Isis, and
I never did figure out who that third person was but
I think it’s somebody’s sister. Now, not only were there
supernatural ways of healing or beliefs about healing, but also
there were natural means and many of these natural means
appeared with the Edwin Smith papyrus–and by the way, each of
these papyruses is named not after the writer obviously but
after the person who revealed this papyrus to civilization. We usually received it as a gift
or purchased it at a flea market and realized it was a
great value to society, so the Edwin Smith papyrus
comes from about 1600 BC, and this was the first of
the literature to contain a rational, scientific
approach to medicine. It talked about surgical
practices, generally pretty minor surgery, but it also
pointed out that doctors tended to specialize. So, generally speaking, you were
a doctor of eyes or of hands or of feet or of the bowels, so the
doctors had their specialties. You can see this one, papyrus
was in pretty good shape. There are surgical tools
that have been recovered, evidence of course that
surgery really did occur in those ancient
Egyptian times. Here are a couple of
examples, a variety of examples of surgical tools. And one of the first
recorded types of surgery was circumcision. This was found painted on the
walls of the tomb of Ank-Mahor, and it involves two adolescent
boys being circumcised and it has various quotations
around there which is the dialogue, kind of like
the comic-strip balloons that go along with that. So one of them is
saying, for example, ‘hold him fast,
don’t let him fall’. Most of the surgeries
though–and I should mention, circumcision was not done to
infants in ancient Egypt but was done at the age, at the time
of puberty, and it was done for both health and perhaps
supernatural religious reasons. Most surgery involved repairing
of wounds of some kind, and so the Egyptians were skilled
at splinting broken bones, at stitching cuts and
at bandaging wounds, and there are instructions
in these papyruses about how to do those. There even were prosthetics. This is another one of those
amazing mummy finds– an artificial big toe that
obviously a probably well-to-do Egyptian
carried to his grave. I don’t remember
exactly who that was, but even prosthetics
was practiced. Obstetrics and gynecology is
important in any culture because it has to do with maintaining
the reproductive ability of women, and caring for the birth
of children, and I mentioned the one papyrus that emphasized
that area in particular. So some of the areas where
medicine was practiced, of course various diseases of
the female reproductive tract. There were fertility aids,
things that could be taken or practices or chants that would
aid in increasing fertility. There were contraceptives
at that time, and one of the contraceptive
methods was for a woman to drink a mixture of
beer, celery and oil four days in a row
at the proper time, and that was supposed to
help provide contraception. Sometimes substances were
applied to the vagina to increase the acidity
of the vagina. Now they probably didn’t know
what was going on there, but sperm actually did not do
well in an acidic environment, so it had its effectiveness. One of these preparations
was a wad of crocodile dung mixed in sour milk, so
it blocked the sperm and provided the
acid environment. [laughter]. Probably those medical trainees
were the ones who went out and got the crocodile
dung, I would guess. They had pregnancy tests. One was described, that has been
tested in modern times and found to be 70 percent effective–I
don’t remember the details but it basically had to do with the
woman peeing on a patch of seeds, different kinds of grass
seeds, and if one kind grew up she was going to have boy, if
the other kind grew up she was going to have a girl and if
nothing grew she was infertile. I shouldn’t say infertile,
she was not pregnant. Turned out to be 70 percent
effective in this modern task in predicting pregnancy, and it
was about 50 percent effective in determining the gender of
the child, so not too bad. Got to think about
that one for a minute. [laughter]. Sagging breasts, even that
there was a cure offered and it was to smear the
blood from a pre-pubertal female onto the breasts. Apparently they thought that
would contain some healing device that would
youthen up the breasts. Child birth was an interesting
process in ancient Egypt. It was generally done
sitting on a birthing stool, usually made of bricks so it
was in an upright position– you have the benefit of
gravity work in this case– and the person was not
attended by a physician but would be helped by
midwives or by relatives. And I wanted to share a story
about that from the Bible. You may be familiar with the
story of Moses and his being sent down the Nile River in a
basket early in the book of Exodus, but there’s a story that
immediately precedes that story, and it had to do with–it’s in
Exodus 1, verses 15 through 21–and it tells about the
oppression of the Israelites who were living in the land
of Egypt at that time, through slavery and
through forced labor. And the king was concerned
because they were growing in population at a very rapid rate
and he was afraid that they were going to become very powerful
and either leave or overtake the state and so he wanted to
destroy the male children. And so he asked that the
leaders of the Hebrew midwives that when a woman,
a Hebrew woman was on the birthing
stool, to watch her and if she gave birth to a
boy child, to kill the child. If she gave birth to a girl
child, she could let it live. And so, the midwives reported
back to the king and apparently they didn’t do very well at this
task because what they said is, to the king, the Hebrew women
are not like Egyptian women– they are vigorous
and give birth before the midwives arrive. They were probably lying but at
any rate they gave credit to the vigorousness of the Hebrew woman
that they were not able to catch them on the birthing stool and
destroy the male children, so then the king went to plan
B, which was just to go after male babies much later
after they were born and that’s where Moses had
to escape from his family– another story for another time. Now mothers typically nursed for
about three years after giving birth and when one is lactating
generally they don’t ovulate so are less likely to become
pregnant, and so this naturally spaced the children
three or four years apart, and the average Egyptian
family was not real large. A woman would typically
have four children. So, natural birth control once
the first child was born. There’s quite a list of
medicinal remedies that are available, and many of these
are listed in another papyrus called the Ebers papyrus
as well as many others. The Ebers papyrus is considered
to be the oldest complete medical book in the world. This was actually 110 pages
in length, it contained 700 different magical
formulas and remedies using natural products–whoever
transcribed that didn’t really get the complete story because
they seemed to have stopped at about here on their way down
through the body, working through the various body
parts and organ systems, and they gave a hint that
they had more to write, so apparently the rest of
the body was lost from these papyruses so it
would have been an even lengthier medical
book if it had survived. The prescriptions that were
included in this medical book as well as the Hearst
papyrus included the name and the amounts of the
ingredients that were used, directions for preparing the
medicine and instructions for taking the medicine
for the patient. Various routes of administration
were used but the main one by far was ointments. Ointments that would be spread
on the skin or placed in the eye or in the various orifices to
treat whatever diseases were occurring in those places. There also were some oral
medications, medications that would be taken by mouth. The main solvents that
were used are listed here. Water, of course, is
an excellent solvent. Honey was very commonly used
as a solvent in ancient Egypt, and it was thought to have
healing powers by itself, even without the
additional ingredients. And, as a matter of
fact, it does have antibacteriacidal properties. The reason is, honey contains a
very high concentration of sugar and when you place that on
living tissue it tends to dry up those tissues and that
would include bacteria that were exposed to it, so
it would tend to kind of drain the water out
of these organisms. Beer, why not, vegetable oils
and animal fats were also used. Some of the active
ingredients–one of the most common active ingredients is
called djaret, and no one has been able to definitely
translate what this plant material was, so we really don’t
know what it was but it was used for treatment of diarrhea
and for the treatment of eye problems. Very commonly
used plant material. Frankincense you may have heard
of from the Christmas story, and frankincense is an aromatic
resin from the Boswellia tree pictured up above, and the
resin is shown down below, and it’s known to have
analgesic properties– that is to deaden pain and
it was applied to the head or the limbs for
treatment of pain. Castor bean–we know this
in the form of castor oil– but these beans were
used as a laxative. They come from
the ricinus plant. It was generally used topically,
I mean it was also used topically besides being
used as a laxative and Dr. Carlsward tells me that this
is a very very toxic bean, so not to be trifled with in
terms of using the proper dose. Aloe was used for
its healing properties. You may be familiar with that
because aloe vera is an herb that is used in many topical
preparations that people use today for their skin. It was used at that time for eye
problems and interestingly it was thought to convert
immortality because there were drawings of aloe plants in many
of the temples and inscriptions having to do with immortality. Figs were consumed, mixed
with other medications, for treatment of abdominal
pains, urinary tract disorders and effective in
hippopotamus bites. [laughter]. A plant called colocynth, which
is kind of a cucumber-like plant, was a very strong
laxative and it also was used to perform chemical abortions
because it caused such strong contractions of the uterus,
so it was kind of a brutal medication but if you really
needed a strong laxative or you wanted to perform an
abortion, it would be effective. There were some products
derived from animals– I’ll just mention a few. The semen from a
stallion could be taken to restore sexual drive. Ravens’ blood was used
to treat hair problems– remember the Egyptians
all had dark hair. Fish skulls were utilized
for treatment of headache, and pig eyes were ground
up with other things for treatment of blindness. Malachite is an interesting
one–this is a copper salt that was ground up and
used for green eye shadow. It’s a very very beautiful stone
and it was mined in that area and it was noticed that the
miners did not seem to succumb to epidemics that sometimes
came through the area, and so it began to be a
recommended use, malachite as a topical medication to
ward off epidemic diseases. And it was used only topically,
and people also wore beautiful malachite jewelry, and it was
thought that that would also provide some protection. It takes me back to my
grandmother who wore about six copper rings on her hands
because she believed that copper warded off arthritis, so we
continue to see some healing powers of copper,
and indeed it has antibacteriacidal
effectiveness. I’m going to close with
some medical advice that comes from some of
these writings that we can all take to heart,
in one way or another. First one, “Do not slight a
small illness for which there is a remedy; use the remedy.” Another one which is
very important in the use of antibiotics
today– “Do not say ‘My illness has passed, I
will not use medication.'” You’re given all
those antibiotics, you take the full course, okay. Useful advice for today. Next one–you can see the
medical establishment hasn’t changed much–“A remedy is
effective only through the hand of its physician.” [laughter]. The supernatural aspect, “A
timely remedy is to prevent illness by having the greatness
of the god in your heart.” And for those of us
who are getting older, “Do not be despondent
when you are ill; your death is not made yet.” And for those of you
who are younger, “Do not pamper yourself
when you are young, lest you be weak
when you are old.” Now, because we are doing this
in the library, I did want to share some of the resources that
I used, certainly not all of them, but the top two are both
books that are available here in Booth Library as soon as I
turn them back in–“Daliy Life of the Ancient Egyptians”
had just one chapter on medicine and mathematics, but it
was a very informative chapter and the other chapters covered
the various other topics that people have been talking
about during this seminar. And this illustrated history of
nursing was also quite excellent with just a few pages, very
well-written about Egyptian culture, so if any of you
are interested in the nursing field, this is an
interesting book to look at. Interestingly, after sharing all
this information about medicine in ancient Egypt they said there
was no evidence that there was nursing at that time, but we all
know the civilization could not survive without nurses, so
certainly there was one form of nursing if it was not described
by a name that we recognize. And finally this book, thanks to
the interlibrary loan department, came all the way
from Atlanta, Georgia after it had been discarded from a
library in Houston some years ago, and I was very grateful to
have that because this medical skills book provided me with a
lot of valuable information. So I will close there,
and invite any questions that you have. >> Dr. Wahby:
Let’s give him a hand please. [audience applause] And as you see, we have 5
minutes to go to 8 o’clock and I know you have other things
to do, so in the 5 minutes we want to do lots of things. So first, if you have a
big ‘wow’ in your mouth, it is time to say it
when I point at you. >> audience members:
Wow. >> Dr. McGilliard:
Wow. Dr. Wahby:
Say after me if you agree, “Thank you
Dr. McGilliard”. >> audience members:
Thank you Dr. McGilliard”. >> Dr. Wahby:
For accepting to speak to us. >> Dr. McGilliard:
You are too kind. >> Dr. Wahby:
[unclear dialogue] this would sound egoistic,
say “Thank you Dr. Wahby”. >> audience members:
Thank you Dr. Wahby. >> Dr. Wahby:
“For being so persistent” and again back to
him for accepting. No amount of persistence
would do unless the humble [unclear dialogue] would
accept and give us this, and he does it so humbly and
in sweet serving spirit, and I guess this could
go to CAA, the CAA and have the course for credit
hours, students can study this. >> Dr. McGilliard:
Oh, don’t you wish you could get three credit
hours for being here tonight. [laughter]. >> Dr. Wahby:
Very good–questions, comments, yes. >> male speaker:
Is there any way to know the difference between
illnesses and accidents? In other words, did the
literature give you any clue as to how many people
died from accidents– infection for example,
or whatever. >> Dr. McGilliard:
This kind of literature was more about individual
cases or remedies, so it really didn’t provide that
sort of statistical look. Perhaps from some
other sources you could find information
like that. It’s interesting because
Imhotep, besides being in the king’s court, also was
supervising this big pyramid scheme and obviously there would
have been a lot of accidents in the construction of
those kind of things and he may have learned
some things from that, but it’s easy to tell from
looking at remains of mummies whether they had succumbed
to a disease or an accident, but the actual statistics,
I couldn’t tell you that. From the mummies of the royal
family, there were a few that died from violence but
most of them appeared to have died from
natural causes. >> Dr Wahby:
Other question or comments. Okay, if you have more questions
come to you after, please email him or email me or email Dean
Lanham, yes, because we will put this online and will take your
questions, he will answer them and we’ll put them online like
a big blog or something, so many people who missed
this class, or this whatever you call it, would benefit of it
and maybe reminder for you if you didn’t take notes. Any last words for anybody? Dean Lanham, anything? >> Dr. Lanham:
No, just to thank Dr. McGilliard for being
with us this evening and sharing so much in
a short period of time. >> Dr. McGilliard:
Thank you for being such a nice audience. [audience applause] [no dialogue]

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