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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

i8o                             Medicine
a mass of documentary evidence. As regards medicine and
surgery, we are fortunate in having a relatively large number of
original documents—the so-called Medical Papyri.
§ ii. The Medical Papyri
The contents of these papyri fall into two main groups:
(i) those which may claim to be called medical books, and
(ii) those which are rather magical in purport or are collections
of popular recipes. Tradition has ascribed to various gods, to
certain early kings, and to sages such as Imhotep (the Imouthes
of the Greeks) the authorship of medical treatises. Whilst, we
have no indications of the authenticity of such attributions,
nevertheless we have definite proof that at least one or two of
such treatises did exist and extracts from them have come down
to us in several papyri.
It will here be convenient to enumerate the principal medical
and medico-magical papyri and to indicate the nature of their
contents, since these documents are the foundation upon which
most of our knowledge rests, and they constitute, indeed, the
oldest body of medical literature in the world.
(l) 2"A<? Ebers Papyrus. This is the longest and most famous
of these documents; it was found together with the Edwin
Smith papyrus in 1862, and was acquired a few years later by
the Egyptologist whose name it bears. It is now preserved in
the University of Leipsic and is in almost perfect condition. Its
contents are medical and magical throughout, except that on
the verso, and quite unrelated to the recto, is written a calendar
which has been of the utmost importance in the study of the
difficult problems of Egyptian chronology. The Ebers Papyrus
was written about the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty,
but there is abundant evidence, based on philological and other
grounds, that it was copied from a series of books many cen-
turies older. It is not a book in the proper sense of the word:
it is a miscellaneous collection of extracts, recipes, and jottings