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Year 10 Medicine Through Time Resources

Egyptian Medicine Booklet


Starter Activity

D E T Y N W I F Y B N Q E M C
F G J H W N C W D B P B L U H
X C A O B O X H E S F P I M A
R E L I G I O N S N A G N M N
J W V T X L T E A P B E R I G
C V L Y Z F G E Y T D P E F E
L A R U T A N R E P U S V I L
U W A H K I U O K H K V I C Q
Q I O C N S U M S S R B R A J
P T O M E K K N Q E C M O T O
H L R B C B A O I B K L E I L
B M E G V J G O M T E H Z O G
U R A C B K N A I S N P M N Y
S J G A N C B D Z O H O O E L
F K L P Y D U H T A F Y C M T

BLOCKAGES
CHANGE
CONTINUITY
MUMMIFICATION These words will be found in this
PAPYRUSEBERS word search. They will be
RELIGION important later on through this
RIVERNILE lesson.
SEKHMET
SUPERNATURAL
THOTH

You will keep this resource with you as you will need it to help you plan out your
homework.

Homework
**due in for next lesson**

Plan out an essay for the question – Was Egyptian Medicine an important step forward? –

1 page of A4 with references to knowledge and examples you’ll use with detail of your
analysis.

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Year 10 Medicine Through Time Resources
Egyptian Medicine

Who were the Egyptians?

The Egyptians dominated much of the early civilisations. They were around from roughly 3000BC
to 400BC. They did not roam the area they lived in due to the presence of the River Nile. Whilst
much of the area was desert, the fact that the river flooded provided Egypt with fertile land to
farm.

How did this affect their society?

The land made staying put possible and therefore an organisation was created due to a large
population being present.
All organisations have a hierarchy and so it was the same for the Egyptians.

Egyptian Religion
Egyptian society was based on numerous gods. Each god had a key area that the god was
responsible for – a bit like a government. Some gods had more than one responsibility for
example, the goddess of war Sekhmet was also the goddess to pray to in case of an epidemic
(she also caused them as well!

The importance of Thoth

Thoth was the god thought to be the god who gave the physicians in Egypt the power to heal and
cure. Such was the influence of religion that the early medical texts were called the Books of
Thoth.

The power of the written word


The act of writing something down means that it can be referred to. This was an important
feature for Egyptian society. This is definitely a sign of the Egyptian progression from
Prehistoric man.

Cause and Cure


In the Egyptian medical texts the notes included what was believed to have caused and cured
the illness. But how accurate were they? Not very! Many illnesses were down to evil spirits
entering the body. People often wore charms to keep these spirits away! So had they progressed
all that much?

Treatment
If a person managed to get ill despite the power of a charm then, he or she turned to the
healing power of the gods and doctors. The use of medical texts (The Papyrus Ebers) could be
said to have helped or hindered the progress of medicine in Egypt though. The medical texts
were supposed to be followed exactly – like fixing a kitchen cabinet! The exact words had to be
spoken and the right amount of herbs or any other kind of treatment. If the patient died
despite this the doctor was not blamed, however if the doctor deviated from the procedure then
he or she could be executed! Is this going to lead to experimentation?

The use of herbs, minerals and drugs was probably part of the belief in religion/magic and not as
an alternative. Think if you gave someone who was ill a drug and combined that with their belief
in religion – would they assume it was the drug or their god?

The use of herbs and drugs was quite complex. They were often dried, boiled and made into a
powder. The medicine was often put into other foods perhaps to make it taste better.
Some treatments were actually quite effective.
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Year 10 Medicine Through Time Resources

Wounds
These were often treated with ointments.

Chest diseases
These were treated with steam inhalation – we still use this to aid breathing when someone has a
cold.

Effective Medicine
How did they know what was effective? The answer was it was probably trial and error.
Treatments that worked were used again and again. Those that did not would be discarded.
However the important thing to remember was the fact that religion played such an intensive
part of their medicine.

The impact of religion on anatomy.

What is anatomy?
Basically it is the study of the human body. Why do we think this is important to the
development of medicine?

Egyptian Religion and the Human Body


The manner in which Egyptian society held reverence to their religion made knowledge of the
human body possible but also very limited!

Egyptians believed that when a person died the soul they had left the body, but after a time it
would return and then the person would have an afterlife. The consequence of this was the need
to develop a system that allowed bodies to be in a good condition for their afterlife. Such a
situation meant that much time was devoted to the task of preserving the bodies

The practice of Mummification


The bodies were soaked in numerous liquids including bitumen and salt. (Salt was known to
preserve meat even in the 19th century). The body was then wrapped in oil and bandages
(Embalming).

How does this help with knowledge of the body?


They Egyptians knew that vital organs would rot inside the body and all the embalming would be
for nothing. Therefore they removed the organs and placed them in jars. The consequence of
this was that they grew to understand where the vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, spleen and
brain) were but because this was a religious ceremony, no further dissection could be made as it
would be needed in the afterlife.

Tasks – answer these questions fully

1. How important has the role of religion been in Egyptian medicine? (Use an example
from treatments and anatomy and also illustrate a positive and negative effect).
2. What links do the Egyptians have to prehistoric man? What evidence is there to
suggest this?
3. List two Egyptian Gods – what did they do – how important were they to Medicine?
4. The Egyptians used herbs and other medical treatments. Did that mean they had
abandoned spiritual medicine? Explain your answer fully.
5. What evidence is there that the Egyptians had a reasonable knowledge of the
anatomy – why was this not developed?

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Egyptian Surgery & Public Health

Surgery

Surgery in Egyptian times was based along the same principles of most other craft professions,
i.e. passed down the family generations. Medicine in these terms was not a father son domain
but also had the opportunity to be passed on to the daughters.

Types of surgical treatment

• Treating dislocations
• Removal of cysts and tumours
• Other minor operations.

The reasoning could be found in the lack of overall physiological information of the body and
that these types of operations would have had good success rates compared to more complicated
surgery. The reason for the recovery successes not only lies in the types of surgery but also
the use of willow in protecting the wounds (willow is actually an antiseptic but it highly unlikely
they knew that).

1. What do you notice about the level of surgery being performed?


2. What do you think the limitations were on the standard of surgery?

Public Health

• Egyptians believed in being clean and keeping clean.


• Men and women shaved their heads regularly.
• They developed primitive mosquito nets.
• Clothes changed regularly.

The reason for the hygiene was not to do with knowledge of disease but rather the impact of
religion on their society (Shaven heads and being clean) and comfort (see Mosquito nets).

However they were not clean in every respect. Their use of the River Nile’s waters was highly
developed in terms of agriculture and irrigation but non-existent in the use sanitation (toilets).

Bathrooms Toilets

Rich – Shallow troughs with drainage pipes. Seats over jars that could be removed –
Poor – Unknown but most likely the use of perhaps used as manure.
the river.

Some historians suggest that water was such a valuable resource it could be squandered in
sanitation.

3. Give an example of the Egyptians being hygienic without knowing it.


4. Give an example that highlights the lack of knowledge about sanitation?

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Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Now a bit of a finishing


activity! These clues are
based on work that should
have been done this lesson.

Across
2. A medical book (7,5)
4. The process of preserving a body
5. The God though to give doctors the power to cure

Down
1. Doctors believed in the natural and ________________ theories.
3. The Goddess of war, she was also though to cause and cure epidemics.

Extension Activity: (To be completed if all other work is done).

1. Why do you think the Egyptians still followed a very supernatural view of
medicine?

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