Find Me On FaceBook!

December 2006July 2007August 2007September 2007January 2008February 2008March 2008April 2008May 2008June 2008July 2008August 2008September 2008October 2008November 2008December 2008January 2009February 2009March 2009April 2009May 2009June 2009July 2009August 2009September 2009October 2009November 2009December 2009January 2010February 2010March 2010April 2010May 2010June 2010August 2010September 2010October 2010November 2010December 2010January 2011February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011July 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011July 2012August 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017July 2017September 2017October 2017December 2017February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018

Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know.

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author


Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Logo designed by Shaun Venish

Blog designed by Mia Pearlman Design


Health-care plan in ancient Egypt? Research suggests more than spells, prayers

S|New Scientist Magazine

As Egyptian mummies go, Asru is a major celebrity. During her life in the 8th century B.C., she was known for her singing at the temple of Amun in Karnak; now she's famous for her medical problems. Forensic studies have revealed that although Asru lived into her 60s, she was not a well woman. She had furred-up arteries, desert lung (pneumoconiosis) caused by breathing in sand, osteoarthritis, a slipped disc, periodontal disease and possibly diabetes, as well as parasitic worms in her intestine and bladder. Her last years must have been full of pain and suffering. After all, what could her doctor do to help? Say a few prayers and recite a spell or two?

If you read the history books, that's about as much as Asru could expect. But not according to Jackie Campbell at the KNH Center for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester in England. Her research suggests that Asru's doctor probably consulted a handbook of remedies and prescribed something to soothe her cough, deaden the pain in her joints and perhaps even expel some of those worms. What's more, Campbell's findings indicate that Asru's doctor had more than 1,000 years of pharmaceutical expertise to draw on.

If she's right, the history of medicine needs rewriting.

The biggest obstacle to determining the ancient Egyptians' grasp of pharmacology has been translation, their pharmacy records left on a handful of papyrus scrolls in a long-forgotten language.

"I'm not a linguistics expert so I used science to authenticate the prescriptions," Campbell says. With most drugs extracted from plants, her first check was whether a plant named in a prescription grew or was traded in Egypt at the time the papyri were written. If it wasn't, she could rule it out. Fortunately, the flora of ancient Egypt is well-known. Campbell's second approach was pharmacological: Could the named ingredient have worked the way a prescription indicated? Normally, this would be the province of a forensic chemist, who would take a sample, analyze its constituents and check for biological activity. Sadly, archaeologists have yet to find any pots of ointment or neatly molded suppositories. "But we had something better," she says. "Recipes."

Detailed prescriptions

Although often prefaced by a prayer or spell, each prescription provides all the information needed to reproduce the remedy, from its ingredients and method of preparation right down to the dose.

They follow a standard format, listing the active ingredient first, followed by stabilizers, flavorings to mask unpleasant tastes, perhaps a soothing agent to help it down and sometimes secondary drugs to alleviate the side effects of the principal drug. Last of all comes the medium, or "vehicle," in which everything is mixed.

Focusing on four key papyri, which contain 1,000 prescriptions and date from 1,850 B.C. to about 1,200 B.C., Campbell analyzed each prescription and compared it with contemporary standards and protocols.

Read the rest here.