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Edwin Smith Papyrus: 3,600-Yr-Previous Surgical Treatise Reveals Secrets and techniques of Historic Egyptian Medical Information

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The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a medical treatise from historic Egypt. This papyrus is called after Edwin Smith, the American collector of antiquities who bought the papyrus. The Edwin Smith Papyrus is notable for being the oldest identified surgical treatise on the earth and casts some gentle on the medical information possessed by the traditional Egyptians.

The Research of the Edwin Smith Papyrus

The Edwin Smith Papyrus was bought by Edwin Smith in Luxor in 1862. As a matter of reality, it was offered to him in two elements. The primary manuscript he purchased had lacked a few of its outer parts. Two months later, the identical folks offered him the remaining fragments, which had been glued onto a dummy roll. Smith noticed by this deception however acknowledged that the 2 had been a part of the identical manuscript and pieced them collectively.

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Web page from the Edwin Smith Papyrus. (Fæ / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Smith then tried to translate the textual content . Sadly, he didn’t possess adequate information to translate it and the papyrus was left because it was for the subsequent few a long time. When Smith died in 1906 this papyrus was given to the New York Historic Society. It was solely in 1920 that one other American Egyptologist, James Henry Breasted , was given the duty of finding out this work. Breasted made a transliteration and translation of the Edwin Smith Papyrus. In 1930, these, together with discussions, had been printed by him in two volumes.

When Was the Edwin Smith Papyrus Written?

The Edwin Smith Papyrus has been dated to the Second Intermediate Interval of historic Egypt , i.e. round 1600 BC. It’s generally believed, nevertheless, that this papyrus is a replica of an older treatise, one which dates to the Previous Kingdom , i.e. round 3000 BC. Breasted himself speculated that the creator of the unique textual content may need been Imhotep, the famend polymath and vizier of the pharaoh Djoser .

The Edwin Smith Papyrus was written within the hieratic script , the cursive type of the hieroglyphs, from proper to left. The textual content is incomplete as its starting and ending are lacking. It was written utilizing each black and pink inks, the previous for the primary physique of the textual content, and the latter for explanatory glosses.

Breasted believed that the glosses (69 of them in complete) had been added a number of centuries after the unique textual content was written. Breasted additionally seen that the scribe (whose identify has not been preserved) who copied the textual content made many errors, a few of which had been corrected within the margins.

The Case Histories of the Edwin Smith Papyrus

The Edwin Smith Papyrus comprises a complete of 48 instances that are systematically organized. These instances start with accidents to the top, and works its approach down the physique, coping with accidents to the thorax and the backbone.

The textual content, sadly, ends right here and thus accidents to the decrease a part of the physique will not be handled, aside from Case 48, which considerations ‘a sprain within the vertebra of the decrease again’.

Every case can be organized in a scientific method, beginning with an ‘Introductory Heading’, which serves because the title of the case, adopted by an ‘Examination’ or ‘Important Signs’ part, which supplies an in depth examination of the harm sustained. This part normally begins with the method “In the event you look at a person for…”

The subsequent part is the ‘ Analysis’, on the finish of which is a verdict regarding the opportunity of therapy, both favorable (treatable), unsure, or unfavorable (untreatable).

Within the Edwin Smith Papyrus, there are 14 situations of ‘untreatable’ accidents. For the remaining instances, a ‘ Therapy’ part is supplied.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus Anatomical Distribution of Cases. (Sinuhe20 / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Edwin Smith Papyrus Anatomical Distribution of Instances. (Sinuhe20 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Some examples of accidents discovered within the Edwin Smith Papyrus could also be given. These embody accidents to the cranium, as an example, “a wound to the top penetrating to the bone of the cranium” (Case 1), and “a smash within the cranium underneath the pores and skin of the top” (Case 8); accidents to numerous facial options , for instance, “a smash within the nostril” (Case 13), and “break up within the cheek” (Case 16); and accidents to the torso, comparable to “a wound within the breast” (Case 40), and “a dislocation of the ribs of the breast” (Case 43).

Based mostly on the character of those accidents, it has been steered that this medical treatise handled a particular group of sufferers – troopers and building staff who had been injured throughout their work.

Treatments in the Edwin Smith Papyrus listed the step-by-step procedures taken in each case. (Fæ / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Therapies within the Edwin Smith Papyrus listed the step-by-step procedures taken in every case. (Fæ / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Lastly, it could be famous that the Edwin Smith Papyrus demonstrates the extremely methodical and rational strategy taken by the traditional Egyptians when treating such accidents. For instance, remedies embody closing wounds with sutures, bandaging, splinting limbs, poultices, stopping an infection with honey, and immobilizing the physique, within the case of spinal accidents. Other than the step-by-step process taken in every case, one might also observe the truth that magic is just resorted to in a single out of the 48 instances preserved within the textual content.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus reveals a stage of medical information so superior that in some instances it even surpassed that of the well-known Greek doctor Hippocrates, who lived 1,000 years later.

Prime picture: Plates vi and vii of the Edwin Smith Papyrus. Supply: Jeff Dahl / Public Area .

By Wu Mingren


Mandal, D. 2016. Edwin Smith Papyrus: The World’s Oldest Identified Surgical Treatise, And But It Would possibly Be A Copy!. [Online] Out there at: https://www.realmofhistory.com/2016/12/07/edwin-smith-papyrus-oldest-surgical-treatise/
Middendorp, J. J. v., Sanchez, G. M. & Burridge, A. L. 2010. The Edwin Smith papyrus: a scientific reappraisal of the oldest identified doc on spinal accidents . Eur Backbone J .
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016. Edwin Smith Papyrus. [Online] Out there at: https://www.britannica.com/subject/Edwin-Smith-papyrus
Wilkins, R. H., 1964. Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. [Online] Out there at: http://www.neurosurgery.org/cybermuseum/pre20th/epapyrus.html
www.touregypt.internet, 2019. The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. [Online] Out there at: http://www.touregypt.internet/edwinsmithsurgical.htm

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