Philosophy and Practice of Medicine in Ancient Egypt

Uploaded by techEIU on 18.04.2012

♪ [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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
>> 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]