Course Description
and Goals

This upper-level lecture and discussion course explores the role of medicine in ancient Egyptian society. Through an understanding of the Egyptian healing arts and their social aspects, we comprehend the the ancient Egyptians' views toward health and the nature of the human organism and its place in the cosmos. This course sets the practice of Egyptian medicine within the ancient Egyptian ethos and world-view, placing it within the framework of Egyptian cosmology, standards of morality and magico-religious beliefs. The focus of this course is the essential nature of Egyptian healing in which deep seated religious notions and so-called magical practices wholly integrated with empirico-rational approaches to form an integrated but multi-faceted medical therapy.

Topics of study include: the fusion of magical and rational therapies; the theoretical bases of disease, both divine and physical; Egyptian therapeutical practices and techniques, including, the nature of surgery, surgical tools, and the uses of trepanation; medical specializations; pharmacology and pharmacopoeia; mummification; the influence of Egyptian medicine and pharmacology on the Greeks; the background and training of the Egyptian physician and his role as physician-priest, the issue of female physicians, and the existence of sanatoria, i.e., Egyptian temples as centers for medical treatment and pilgrimage.

The course will pay special attention to the practice of magical medicine, the ancient Egyptian medical papyri, their form and content, and what these indicate about the Egyptian approach to treatment, to women's health, including gynaecological and obstetrical practices, and to dentistry and dental therapies. In this regard, students might read translations of the papyri. Finally, the class will examine the techniques and findings of modern palaeopathology, i.e., the pathological study of mummies and ancient human remains. Here the purpose is to determine the general physical condition of the Egyptians, their standards of health, the biological evidence of disease, and causes of death--all through the use of forensics, X-ray, Computer-aided Temography (CT scanning), Magnetic Resonance Imaging, molecular biology (e.g., DNA cloning), genetic studies, etc.