Few of us know that ancient Egyptians were pioneers in the field of Medicine. They were differently pioneers in engineering and in construction through the amazing pyramids and temples they left behind for us to admire and to study. However recent discoveries revealed that physicians at the time already developed medical instruments, many of them were used during the process of mummification. It must be said that mummification allowed the ancient Egyptians to have a better understanding of anatomy. They were aware of the internal organs maybe not completely knowledgeable about their functions, but it gave an opportunity to develop surgery methods that were recorded on papyrus and taught to physicians. You shouldn’t be amazed if you knew that the term to design mummification was the same term that they used to name treatment. The reason for that was that they thought that mummification was in fact a body treatment for “the other life.”
Practical techniques and magical rituals
It would be very hard to state that medicine was practiced as a sole science field, part of it was about superstitions or magic, the most famous one was as the eye of Horus which became a powerful healing amulet. Similarly perceptions that the human body was only a depiction of the river Nile, that disease are a consequence of an alteration in the vital body flow. They believed that the obstruction of this flow was generated by evil gods, which led to the use of spells and magic formulas crucial to attract good gods and their help.
But what could be very interesting is that physicians at the time developed what we call it now clinical examination. They used as we do medical maneuvers such as inspection, palpation and auscultation in order to obtain information from the patient’s body. Although they did not conceive our current concepts of disease, they used the concept of syndromes( a group of signs and symptoms that delineate a recognizable pattern). They also identified some signs as markers of severe physical compromise, such as trismus, neck stiffness, weak pulse, etc.
Mummification, the art of medicine
Since they had understood the central role of some organs such as the heart and the kidney, in the mummification process they did not remove these organs which they considered vital for reincarnation. Because these organs were considered so vital, if they were damaged before mummification or during this procedure they had to be replaced by a beetle-shaped amulet. Since this object was supposed to magically replace the absent organ, we can consider this as the first attempt to replace a vital human organ by an artificial device.
Ancient Egypt was definitely a great and unprecedented civilization in humankind history and even in medicine, their work was remarkable to the point that the Greeks were so keen to acquire their knowledge, true that once taken it was purified from its magic concepts, but they made sure to build on the Egyptian physicians findings. And later Arabs inherited and enriched this medical knowledge that from the Muslim Spain reached the rest of Europe, where it was developed as a field of science and gave the modern medicine as we know it today.