History Egypt Medicine

Public Health

Public Health

The Pharoah and his government did not do anything to protect the people from illness. However, Egyptians took great care to keep clean, probably as part of their religion, to stay at peace with their gods. 

People washed twice a day and every night and before meals. They used soda, scented oils and ointments as soap. Ladies shaved their bodies with bronze shavers and used eye make-up that included powdered emerald-green copper ore which may have helped to reduce eye infections. 

Excavations show that richer homes contained a room for washing but did not have plumbing to bring water in and out. People bathed by having a servant pour water over them from a jug. The waste water ran away through a hole in the wall or into a sunken vase on the floor. 

Toilets or the poor were wooden stools with a hole above a cup half-filled with sand. Richer families had a limestone seat over a bowl standing in a pit - but all toilets had to be emptied by hand. 

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Disease and infection

Disease and Infection

Treatments 

Doctors, priests and mothers used many treatments made from herbs, plants and minerals and animal parts. Most ingredients, such as honey, were local but others were brought by traders from abroad. Cinnamon was pepper came from India and China, and malachite from North Africa. 

Doctors developed new treatments to unblock blocked channels. These included bleeding the patients (taking blood from their veins) or making the patients vomit or empty their bowls 

  • Bloodletting - surgical removal of a patient's blood.
  • Vomiting - to give a patient something to make them sick. 
  • Purging - remove impurities through faeces. 
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Surgery and Anatomy

Surgery and Anatomy

Doctors knew about many parts in the body's anatomy - the heart, lungs, liver and brain, and about veins, arteries, muscles and many bones - although did not know exactly what each part did. For example, they did not know that the heart pumps blood around the body. 

Their religion said that dissection was wrong. They believed the body was needed in the afterlife. Dissection was banned, knowledge of physiology was limited. 

They learnt about anatomy from embalming, removing and preserving the body's organs after death. At times, in Egyptian history embalmers were regarded as 'unclean' and were cut off from contact with other people so they could not have passed on knowledge of the body.

Doctors also carried out simple surgery on the outside of the body, cutting out swellings or sewing up wounds. Trephining was used, cutting holes in the skull to ease the pain. Doctors had stronger, sharper bronze surgical instruments thanks to improved metal-working skills. 

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