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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter studies ancient Egyptian medicine, which for nearly two millennia before the Greek conquest had combined both rational and irrational procedures. For Egyptians, magic was a divine force that, together with the creative word, could turn concepts into reality. Visible conditions were generally treated according to the perceived cause (such as bone setting or simple surgery); however, for fever, where the cause remained hidden, magic was used. The author makes extensive use of funerary evidence (mummies and tomb goods), since very few texts survive, and depictions of physical deformity or disease are restricted to portrayals of lower class people. The preserved texts, including especially the Ebers Papyrus and the Edwin Smith Papyrus, present fragmentary information about physiology and offer case studies that prescribe surgical, pharmaceutical, or magical treatments. Effective remedies identified in the Egyptian pharmacopoeia include laxatives, antacids, anti-diarrheals, and antiseptics.

Keywords: Ebers Papyrus, Edwin Smith Papyrus, fractures, magic, mummy, pharmacy, surgery

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