Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Revision cards for GCSE History Ancient Egyptian Medicine (OCR)

Factors influencing Egyptian Medicine

1. The isolation of Ancient Egypt

- Ancient Egypt was cut off from other civilisations

- This led to long term stability as they were not being constantly invaded and so could make steady progress in areas like engineering and medicine

- for most of the period 3000BC - 300BC their medicine stayed the same

- there were few advances

- No new ideas from other countries reached them

1 of 10

Factors influencing Egyptian Medicine

2. The River Nile

- The River Nile fertilised the land on its banks

- Every Summer the water rose by seven metres

- This led to water flooding onto the farmland by the Nile

- It also left on the land huge amounts of silt which fertilised the land and made it good for growing crops

- Producing enough food was never a problem for the Egyptians

- They had plently of time for other activities like building and medicine

2 of 10

Factors influencing Egyptian Medicine

3. Irrigation

- the Egyptians built irrigation channels from the Nile to take water to the surrounding land

- it was important to keep these channels clear of blockages

- this gave the Egyptians a natural theory about how disease was caused

- they knew there were vessels all around the body carrying blood, air and urine

- they thought that disease was caused by these vessels becoming blocked

- this led to treatment like blood letting to clear the blockages

- this was the first natural explanation of illness

3 of 10

Factors influencing Egyptian Medicine

4. Hieroglyphics

- Egyptians developed a system of writing using hieroglyphics

- this meant they could keep records of illnesses and treatments

- this information could be shared with other doctors and handed down the generations

- gradually they built up a huge bank of knowledge about medicine

4 of 10

Factors influencing Egyptian Medicine

5. Religion

- religious beliefs may have helped them to learn about the structure of the body

- regarded life as a preparation for afterlife

- in afterlife, body and organs were needed

- liver, lungs, stomach and intestines were taken out, treated with spices to preserve them and stored in Canopic Jars

- brain removed through the nostrils with hooks and body was soaked for 70 days in natron, treated with gums and finally wrapped in long strips of linen

- the embalmers who did this must have learnt a lot about the structure of the body

- knowledge was passed on to doctors

5 of 10

Doctors and their Methods

- Egyptian doctors had a good reputation and kings of other countries often used them.

- Temples often had special schools attached to them where doctors were trained.

- The temple doctors were paid a salary by the Pharoah and provided free treatment

- Ordinary doctors were paid in goods or services

6 of 10

Doctors Methods

1. Listen to patients symptoms then examine them using eyes and hands

2. Reach their diagnosis and say if the illness can be treated

3. Treat the patient using their experience of patients with similar illness

(We know that many doctors were specialists)

Many treatments were drugs prepared from animals and from over 160 different plants. They also imported many substances from abroad. Medicine was given in different forms, eg pills, cakes, ointments, drops and baths.

- Some of the treatments used would have been effective, eg rotten bread because of antibacterial mould

- They tried to clear blockages by blood letting, vomiting and by using laxatives, like castor oil.

7 of 10

Egyptian Surgery

- Surgery was not separate from general medicine

- practised by all doctors

- carried out simple operations

- did not carry out much surgery

- evidence of trephining

- fractures set with splints and healed well

- wounds bandaged with fresh meat, then bound with oil and honey (bacteria does not grow in honey, so wounds healed)

- stitched with needles and bandaging used to close wounds

8 of 10

Egyptian Public Health

- Herodotus called Egyptians "the healthiest of all men"

- took great care in keeping their bodies and homes clean: mainly due to religious reasons

- keeping clean was a way of being at peace with the Gods and spirits

- rich and poor were washed every morning and before each meal

- regular purgings and vomiting were just as important as they cleansed the insides of the body

- responsibility of each individual to keep clean

- Egyptian government did not provide public heath system to keep everyone clean

9 of 10

Magic and Religion

- supernatural infuences were major controlling factors in the everyday life of the Egyptians: Gods controlled everything

- Doctors who worked in temples would also be priests; to them it was natural to use both natural and supernatural methods

- doctors were expensive and their treatments were often painful

- no certainty that treatments would work, whereas magic often did because problems were often psycological

- Egyptians did not know the causes of internal injuries or of diseases: did not know about bacteria and infection, so thought they were caused by evil spirits entering the body

BUT some spells combined magics with natural treatments!

10 of 10




fanx for these notes

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Medicine through time (OCR History A) resources »