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Egyptian Surgery? Wow!

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posted on May, 23 2010 @ 03:59 AM
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The Edwin Smith Papyrus



This item is an incredible document that shows how medically advanced the Egyptians were 5000 years ago. It describes medical procedures we still use today. Far from the traditional assumptions of magical mumbo jumbo, it presents a dry and rational approach to injuries. It's pretty amazing stuff!

The papyrus lists 48 treatments for head and spinal injuries and offers three diagnoses... “an ailment I can treat”, “an ailment I shall contend with”, or “an ailment which not to be treated.”


This remarkable papyrus, bought in 1862 by the American Egyptologist Edwin Smith in Luxor, Egypt, is an ancient Egyptian surgical treatise. It is the oldest known medical document; written in the Middle Egyptian hieratic script, it contains 377 lines of text on the recto (front) and 92 on the verso (back). It is a textbook of surgery, containing systematic and highly detailed descriptions, diagnoses, treatments and prognoses of 48 neurosurgical and orthopaedic cases. The papyrus, which is named after Edwin Smith, is now housed in the New York Academy of Sciences.
Neurophilosophy




1. A wound in his head penetrating to the bone of his skull
2. A gaping wound in his head, penetrating to the bone
3. A gaping wound in his head penetrating to the bone (and) perforating his skull
4. A gaping wound in his head penetrating to the bone (and) splitting his skull
5. A gaping wound in his head ,smashing his skull
6. A gaping wound in his head penetrating the bone of his skull , (and) rending open the brain of his skull
7. A gaping wound in his head penetrating to the bone (and) perforating the sutures of his skull
8. A smash in his skull under the skin of his head
....and so forth
Full text and case studies

A little history of the papyrus...



Although dated to ~1600BC, it's actually a copy of an earlier document from ~3000-2500BC. Some scholars have wondered if the great Imhotep may have been the original author...we'll never know. Like all objects from history, there's a human element.

In this case, we know that the scribe of the Edwin Smith Papyrus was suddenly called away and never returned to complete their work. We can picture him, perhaps writing by the light of an oil lamp, sitting as he copies from another papyrus over a thousand years older! As a man, he'd be wearing a lot of make-up and perfume. As he laboriously writes the text, he makes many mistakes and adds corrections and explanations in the margins. If we close our eyes, it's a scene that's easy to imagine...I can feel that desert heat and hear the flies buzzing around. Perhaps outside, there are the distant sounds of livestock and the bustle of humanity?

In the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a word...he stops. I wonder why?



The papyrus contents.



The text features the diagnosis and treatment of a range of injuries from broken jaws and noses to major, terminal head trauma. The treatment of a broken nose will be familiar to many as it involves stemming the blood using linen (gauze) before the doctor applies force to reset the bone. The dislocated jaw instructs the doctor to insert his thumbs into the mouth and to use the fingers ('claws') to force it back into place. It list treatments involving stitches and describes all the major arteries and veins we know of today. It describes the human skull, spinal column and vertebrae.


Case Ten: Instructions concerning a wound above his eyebrow

Examination: If thou examinest a man having a wound above his eyebrow, penetrating to the bone, shouldst palpate his wound, (and) draw together for him the gash with stitching..

Diagnosis: Thou shouldst say concerning him: "One having a wound above his eyebrow. An aliment which I will treat."

Treatment: Now after thou hast stitched it, thou shouldst bind fresh meat upon it the first day . If thou findest that the stitching of this wound is loose, thou shouldst draw (it) together for him with two strips (of plaster), and thou shouldst treat it with grease and honey every day until he recovers.


Bronze Egyptian surgical tools


The doctor couldn't treat everything, but much like our modern equivalents, they'd have a bloody good go at it first! This case describes major skull trauma and offers several stages of treatment. If each stage fails, the case becomes “an ailment which not to be treated.”


Case Seven: Instructions concerning a gaping wound in his head penetrating to the bone (and) perforating the sutures of his skull .

Examination: If thou examinest a man having a gaping wound in his head, penetrating to the bone, (and) perforating the sutures of his skull, thou shouldst palpate his wound, (although) he shudders exceedingly. Thou shouldst cause him to lift ; if it is painful for him to open his mouth, (and) his heart beats feebly ; if thou observe his spittle hanging at his two lips and not falling off, while he discharges blood from both his nostrils (and) from both his ears; he suffers with stiffness in his neck, (and) is unable to look at his two shoulders and his breast .

First diagnosis: Thou shouldst say regarding him : "One having a gaping wound in his head, penetrating to the bone, (and) perforating the sutures of his skull; the cord of his mandible is contracted; he discharges blood from both his nostrils (and) from both his ears, while he suffers with stiffness in his neck. An ailment with which I will contend."

First treatment: Now as soon as thou findest that the cord of that man’s mandible, his jaw, is contracted thou shouldst have made for him something hot until he is comfortable, so that his mouth opens. Thou shouldst bind it with grease, honey, (and) lint, until thou knowest that he has reached a decisive point.
Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus: cases, full text and explanations

Kom Ombo Temple relief

A Brief History of Human Diagnosis

Some thoughts...



The knowledge in the papyrus reaches back 5000 years and represents a snapshot of what the original contained. When the original knowledge of surgery was committed to text, it would probably have been well-established. Around ~3000-2500BC in Egypt, they were irrigating the land with Nile water. The national building projects were under way and it's possible (given the later dating of 2500BC) that the Giza Pyramids looked down on the scribes of the original surgical papyrus. Certainly, by the time our later scribe mysteriously abandoned his work, Egypt was a powerful nation with a landscape of grand monuments. It must have been something to see!

As I've been reading about Egyptian surgery and how advanced they were, it hasn't been the technology or knowledge that I've found moving. Instead, it's been the scribe of the papyrus who has made a very human impression. It's like a Marie Celeste moment in time...he put down the work and never returned to it...



Mathilda's Anthro Blog: Faces of Egypt

Edited to add links

[edit on 23-5-2010 by Kandinsky]




posted on May, 23 2010 @ 04:09 AM
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Very nice thread.


I once saw a documentary where they laid down ancient Egyption and modern surgical tools next to each other. They were amazingly the same.

I wonder what they used as anesthetic and to prevent infection.
As far as I know there are lots of human remains found that showed they were once subjected to surgery and lived to tell the tale.

S & F



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 04:56 AM
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Thank you for the interesting thread!
The ancient Egyptians were far more advanced than I think most people give them credit for..


Originally posted by Kandinsky
Treatment: Now after thou hast stitched it, thou shouldst bind fresh meat upon it the first day . If thou findest that the stitching of this wound is loose, thou shouldst draw (it) together for him with two strips (of plaster), and thou shouldst treat it with grease and honey every day until he recovers.


That caught my eye...Honey is known to have antimicrobial properties, in fact, there's a certain kind of honey, from New Zealand I think, that scientists have been researching as a possible treatment for MRSA.


What most people don't know is that honey has the necessary components to produce small amounts of hydrogen peroxide in a slow-release manner. This makes honey an ideal substance to use in the treatment of infected wounds and other bacterial disorders.
The hydrogen peroxide producing capacity of honey


That the scribe just stopped working on the document is quite a mystery...I wonder what happened to him, and why wasn't it finished by another scribe? This must have been important information for them, seems odd that they'd just abandon it.



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 05:27 AM
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reply to post by Sinter Klaas
 


I think some of their anti infection kit was propolis, from bees wax, I agree super thread OP, the first thread I read on Sunday morning thanks.



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 07:54 AM
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reply to post by Sinter Klaas
 



I wonder what they used as anesthetic and to prevent infection. As far as I know there are lots of human remains found that showed they were once subjected to surgery and lived to tell the tale.


The main anaesthetic we know of was opium. From Sumeria to Egypt, opium poppies were widespread. It's sedative properties would be very useful. On the other hand, it's hallucinogenic aspects might be pretty freaking awful when you consider invasive surgery!


reply to post by Astrithr
 




That caught my eye...Honey is known to have antimicrobial properties, in fact, there's a certain kind of honey, from New Zealand I think, that scientists have been researching as a possible treatment for MRSA.


I found that interesting too. They also mention using uric acid to prevent wrinkles...it's a major ingredient in modern anti-ageing creams. They filed cancer under “an ailment which not to be treated.”

Rather amazingly, they used the same treatment for the Guinea worm (a parasitic worm that invades humans) as we use today. As the nasty little critter became visible, they used a small stick to wind it around and slowly pull out...see photograph here

It'd be fascinating to know what else was lost to the thieves and fires of history. Almost certainly the rest of the original papyrus had more insights into medicine.




[edit on 23-5-2010 by Kandinsky]



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 08:19 AM
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Originally posted by Kandinsky
I wonder what they used as anesthetic and to prevent infection.

Or they didnt use it at all...
Most historical records dont tell the story whether many survived or not.

Anyway, its quite interesting... Though not all that surprising. The Romans had equally advanced surgery (including eye surgery!). It wasnt until the dark ages that medicine became so taboo and "mystical".



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 09:02 AM
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reply to post by merka
 
Hiya Merka, the Greeks wrote about a drug called nepenthe used as a painkiller. They claimed it originated in Egypt. Modern scholars suspect it was opium or a mixture of opium and Indian hemp. Herodotus described Egyptians burning nepenthe to inhale the smoke and they grew poppies near Thebes.

It's hard, if not impossible, to say how many survived the treatment. One indication is the presence of trepanned skulls from burials with evidence of long term survival (bone growth). It seems reasonable to expect higher survival rates in the methods mentioned in the papyrus than drilling people's heads.

Furthermore, there are remains of Egyptians who survived all manner of broken bones. Out of a sample of 6000 skeletons...1 in 37 had suffered a broken bone. Walking to the market must have been like a walk through an ER Department!


Orthopedic and Traumatic Skeletal Lesions in Ancient Egyptians



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 09:09 AM
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wow, pretty amazing maybe we also should learn and read upon all ancient text to see if we can improve humanity, good work keep it up



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 09:45 AM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


Great find my friend, great thread.

If you look at mankind as a whole, it often appears to me that at stages we've almost "regressed". Medicine is a prime example, the level of technology possessed by the Egyptians was probably on a par with medicine in the Dark Ages!!!

I like this papyrus, almost like a first aid manual or guide!

all the best bud, S+F


[edit on 23-5-2010 by kiwifoot]



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 11:33 AM
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Excellent post!

There's actually a number of these papyri around: en.wikipedia.org...

I've read translations of sections of some of them, and I really think you want modern medicine rather than these ancient remedies. One (I forget which) includes using dried camel dung inserted into sexual organs to prevent pregnancy.

Thanks so much for your well researched post!



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 12:00 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 
Thank you very much. I feel like I've been gently 'peer-reviewed' and not found wanting. I've been reading about the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus and Harris I (excessive wealth) as well...fascinating.



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 12:12 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


Dried camel dung would do the trick, you can't argue that ;-)



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 12:59 PM
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Nice thread, K.
Can't wait until we develop time travel so I can see just how comfortably these people lived for myself. By all accounts, people would be pleasantly surprised at their level of comfort I'd imagine.
S&F



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 01:10 PM
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reply to post by JayinAR
 
Being a time-travel tourist would be pretty cool. Staying there would be a whole different thing


Can you imagine strapping a piece of raw meat to an open wound in Giza?! Man, there'd be flies and maggots swarming in no time...



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 01:12 PM
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Very interesting, S&F. Present man is not capable of knowing everything what the ancients had knowledge of, but we can try!



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 01:14 PM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


Yeah, you'd probably wanna wrap that up.


But seriously, I think most people would be surprised at the level of comfort afforded to the average person in Egypt 4,000 years ago. Sure, it would be more difficult than we are used to, but it wouldn't be so bad.

At least I know that if my jaw got broken for popping my mouth off to someone, they can fix it for me!



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 02:23 PM
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Very well put together thread S&F, also very interesting. I think there was more advanced civilizations that have been lost in time. We know mother nature likes to wipe the earth clean every once in a while so who knows how much has been lost - who knows what's left to be found as well?



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 02:30 PM
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Originally posted by merka

Most historical records dont tell the story whether many survived or not.


Though mortality rate was high they have found a good number of bones with surgery done and healed, so this shows the person lived.



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 02:30 PM
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Damn, Why did it have to be Kandis post? Ah! Did I write that out loud?

You know I love it. With findings like these also from Roman , and even
The So. American civilizations. Who can say how far back western medicines roots go.? We only know they go back at least this far.
i can imagine a high success rate as well as unsuccessful. There were probably a constent stream of injuries back in the day.
Fantastic SnF

[edit on 23-5-2010 by randyvs]



posted on May, 23 2010 @ 02:44 PM
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Awesome stuff. Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas were known to use brain surgery and splint broken bones and have extensive medicinal knowledge also.

This is why I hate the Ancient Alien theory, it completely disregards all of early humanity's achievements.





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