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Physicians of ancient Egypt were probably trained in the temples, as were the priest- magicians and sorcerers. Dealing primarily with wounds, the Edwin Smith papyrus is admired for the diagnostic acumen exhibited in the case histories detailed, where symptoms such as feeble pulse (2500 years before reference to the pulse appears in Greek medical treatises), palsy, and deafness are all recorded and referred to as due to one common cause- a head wound.
The papyri prescribe many rational methods of treatment, such as diet, physiotherapy and drugs.
The cases of the Edwin Smith papyrus are not only systematically constructed; each within itself, but their arrangement throughout is a systematic one.
Egyptian physicians were highly respected all over the ancient world for thousands of years. Nearly as old as mankind itself, practice of medical procedures in some from has paralleled man’s development.
Organized peoples, enjoying the natural habitational advantages of these areas, were flourishing 6,000 years ago. However, when recorded history dawned, medicine was already a well-developed profession, and its practitioners had a heritage of experience, knowledge and beliefs handed down from a long line of predecessors by precept and word –of-mouth through countless centuries.
However, they formed a distinct profession, organized in a rigid hierarchy with court physicians at the top.
Just as they had transcended primitive levels in statecraft, agriculture, technology and especially architecture and art, so did the Egyptians also reach higher levels in medicine.


In addition to many surgical conditions, a great number of recognizable internal afflictions are reported in the papyri, such as worms, eye diseases, diabetes, rheumatism and schistosomiasis.
Many of the drugs named undoubtedly were worthless, but some, such as tannic acid, turpentine, gentian, senna, and lead, and copper salts, are still used in medical practice.
The physician is confronted with a patient having symptoms paralleling those cited in the third diagnosis of the seventh case history recorded in the Edwin Smith papyrus. In not a few instances, the quality or lack of medical service has profoundly influenced the quality of medical service has profoundly influenced the course of civilizations.
Imhotep is said to have constructed the famous step pyramid of Sakkarah, near Memphis, for Pharaoh Zoser.
The papyri (so Called because they were written on sheets prepared from the papyrus plant) dealing exclusively with medicine abound with magic formulas and prayers. Some medical papyri are predominantly religious, but others are predominantly empiric rational. The ancient existence of some of these conditions is confirmed by paleopathology (the examination of bones and tissues of mummies for evidence of disease); and, unfortunately, those afflictions are still prevalent in Egypt. Castor oil, used externally and internally, was a great favorite with the doctors of Egypt. Most of the elements of ancient Egyptian medicine are here: The physician, clothed in clean white linen and a wig, as becomes the dignity of his status.


Throughout the dawning millennia and much of their recorded history, medicine was intimately associated with the magico-religious practices of various peoples groping for the light knowledge and a better way of life.
Egyptian specialization seems to have been hangover of primitive conditions rather than a precursor of modern specialization.
Beyond the psychotherapeutic values of magic and religion, Egyptian medical men made solid advances in observation and rational treatment.
The first was intended primarily for the use of a surgeon; the latter is a collection of recipes for the physician. Their contributions are worthy of a place beside other accomplishments of this great ancient civilization. The best care that the science and knowledge of the day can provide is focused on the patient. In this later period, temples were erected to Imhotep in which patients looked for and supposedly found relief in their sleep.
Each of these documents, though ancient in its own right, appears by language and explanations to reflect traditions much older.



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