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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

188                              Medicine
organs, are pictures of the organs of mammals and not of human
beings. This shows that the Egyptians' knowledge of mammal-
ian anatomy is older than their knowledge of that of man, and
further that they recognized the essential identity of the two
by devising signs based on the organs of animals and using them
unaltered when referring to the corresponding organs of the
human body.
The extent of the knowledge of a people in respect of any
technical subject can be gauged by the richness or otherwise
of its terminology. In the ancient language of the hieroglyphs
there are considerably over one hundred anatomical terms, and
this fact alone shows that the Egyptians were able to differen-
tiate and name a great many organs and organic structures that
a more primitive and less enlightened people would have grouped
together or would have failed to perceive. Whilst, however, the
Egyptians' terminology for the gross anatomy of the body is
fairly accurate, they entirely failed to understand the nerves,
muscles, arteries, and veins. They had but one word to denote
all these structures: they appear to have regarded them all as
various parts of a single system of branching and radiating cables
forming a network over all parts of the body. The word used
for the blood-vessels communicating with the heart is the same
as that employed for the muscles in the prescriptions for stiff-
joints and rheumatoid complaints. In such cases the context
alone allows us to perceive what is meant.
As regards physiology, the most important document we
have is a long passage in the Ebers Papyrus that deals with the
heart and its Vessels'. The passage is obscure, corrupt, and very
difficult to understand and the second copy of it in the Berlin
Medical Papyrus is so faulty and incorrectly written that it
affords but little help, while a third duplicate,text, that in the
Edwin Smith Papyrus, is too fragmentary to be serviceable. The
Egyptians themselves must have felt the difficulty of under-
standing the passage, for many glosses were introduced-for the