The Tomb of an Egyptian Doctor
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The Tomb of an Egyptian DoctorWhen you hear of tombs in Egypt, they’re usually of pharaohs. But the latest discovery is that of a prestigious physician who served the royal family during the building of the pyramids. The tomb belongs to Shepseskaf-Ankh and dates to 2400 BC. He served the pharaohs of the fifth dynasty in the Old Kingdom, when the empire was in decline. Archaeologists discovered the tomb in a vast necropolis just outside of Giza.

Shepseskaf-Ankh practiced medicine that was rather sophisticated for its day. Part of that was keeping clean to prevent illness and disease. Egyptians bathed often, shaved off all their body hair, and ate a diet that excluded “unclean” animals.

Egyptians also experimented on and studied the human body, correlated anatomical changes with disease and developed remedies. Mummification provided excellent opportunities for this. Discoveries of medical papyruses reveal details of magical spells as well as descriptions of stomach diseases involving intestinal parasites, skin diseases, diseases of the head, flow of urine, traumatic injuries, and diseases of the extremities.

Then what follows are lists of prescriptions to relieve the symptoms, some of which were said to have been made and used by the gods themselves. Some papyruses list diseases that can’t be translated and others are devoted entirely to obstetrics and gynecology.

Because Egyptians valued knowledge and were avid record keepers, we get a glimpse of a day in the life of an Egyptian doctor. Archaeologists will learn more about Shepseskaf-Ankh’s as they excavate his eight room burial chamber.

For more information…

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