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Health Hazards and Cures in Ancient Egypt

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posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 02:37 PM
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Life expectancy in ancient Egypt and Nubia was lower than in many modern populations. Whilst some ancient Egyptians undoubtedly enjoyed longevity, most were unlikely to live beyond about 40 years of age.

As people waded through standing water, particularly in the agricultural irrigation channels, parasites such as the Schistosoma worm could enter the human host, via the feet or legs, to lay eggs in the bloodstream. These worms caused a lot of damage as they travelled through various internal organs, making sufferers weak and susceptible to other diseases.

Many women died as young adults, and childbirth and associated complications may well have been the cause.

Except for the royal elite and retainers malnutrion and anemia was common.

As in other ancient cultures, head injuries in Nile Valley populations tended to be sustained by more men than women, because men engaged in the manual work and military action that could lead to such injuries. For example, the bodies of about 60 male archers from the early Middle Kingdom period were found in a tomb at Deir el-Bahri, clearly showing head injuries caused by fighting: axe wounds, spear piercings and arrow lacerations.

We have no direct information about treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis, polio or arthritis but no doubt, to judge from the variety of recipes in medical texts, any medication would involve fairly revolting ingredients. Dung from various animals, fat from cats, fly droppings and even cooked mice are just a small selection of the range of remedies the Egyptian doctor could recommend as treatment.

Perhaps the most informative medical text from ancient Egypt is that called the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus.

The Edwin Smith papyrus

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