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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

190                              Medicine
the heart as the centre of the vascular system, and the other is
the belief that the Vessels' were not exclusively concerned with
blood, but were the vehicles also of air, water, mucus, semen,
and other secretions. This erroneous conclusion doubtless arose
out of the condition of the vessels observed during the post-
mortem manipulations of the embalmers, and could not have
been derived from the functional vessels of a living body. It
was believed also that the ears, besides being the organs of hear-
ing, were part of the pulmonary system, for it is stated that the
breaths of life and death enter them, on the right and left sides
respectively.1 Beneath all this jumble of statement that fills
several pages of the papyrus, much of which is erroneous, there
remains a nucleus of correctly observed truth which suggests
that in very early times a serious attempt was being made to
understand the structure and functions of the body and its
organs, and the effects of injury upon them. It was observed,
for instance (as we learn from the Edwin Smith Papyrus), that
the brain is enclosed in a membrane and that its hemispheres
are patterned with convolutions; that injury to the brain causes
a loss of control over various parts of the body, the tension of
the facial muscles and other manifestations; that injury to the
spinal column may cause priapism and involuntary emission;
that such an injury also may cause meteorism; that certain
injuries can be confidently cured, whilst others are only doubt-
fully curable, and others again are definitely hopeless.
A passage in the Ebers Papyrus dealing with affections of the
stomach, and another in the Kahun Papyrus dealing with
uterine and other female disorders, introduce a novel feature in
that they describe symptoms and give a diagnosis. In nearly all
the other medical texts the diagnosis is assumed and only treat-
ment is provided. These passages, together with the concluding
part of the Ebers Papyrus, are evidently drawn from quite a
1 Compare the association of the left side with death and the right side
life in Apollodorus, in. s. 3.