How much progress did the Egyptians make in Medicine

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Last updated: April 11, 2019

Some people feel that the Egyptians made considerable progress in medicine because of the way they could examine parts of the body during the mummification process. This allowed them to find out information about how the body worked. By removing the organs, they knew where they were located inside the body and what they were attached to. The Egyptians discovered that the body could be preserved in many things, including salts, oils, and bitumen.

Before electricity was discovered and fridges were made, people used salt to preserve food that needed to be kept cold, so we still use the Egyptian’s technique thousands of years later.Other people think the Egyptians didn’t make such great advances because of their theory about the river Nile and how it worked in conjunction to the human body. The Egyptians believed that the body was full of channels, just like the Nile was. If an irrigation channel was blocked on the Nile, the water would not flow into the fields – a disaster for Egyptians because they inhabited the area surrounding the Nile because of the fertile land it offered.

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The Egyptians believed the same thing happened with the human body – that the blockage of the vessels lead to the person becoming ill. Vomiting was encouraged in some patients, as it was thought to clear blockages from the body.They also had a limited understanding of the way in which the organs worked, because they could not see them functioning, as the person was dead when mummification took place. Mummification had to be done quickly for religious reasons and because of the heat in Egypt, which would allow the body to decompose faster. The body was also thought to be needed for the afterlife, so could not be dissected and studied.The Egyptians improved many of their remedies and treatments by trial and error, instead of actual knowledge of the body. They would note down their findings and these would be passed down to the next generation, just like all crafts in Egypt. Herbs were often used to cure ailments such as a sore throat.

Some of their cures have been proven to work; for example honey is actually known to have healing powers. This is an example of where Egyptian remedies are still used today; therefore they have advanced in medicine.Diseases that had no obvious physical cause were harder to treat because they were harder to explain. Some of the Egyptian’s treatments were spiritual. These often involved painful surgery, which frequently resulted in death. The Egyptians believed that evil spirits could enter the body through a cut or abrasion. If a man cut his hand on a knife then he would believe an evil spirit was inside his body and a medicine man would drill a hole in his skull to remove the spirit. This treatment failed – and the man would die.

These particular treatments showed a lack of understanding by the Egyptians, because they did not actually cure the patient. Sometimes death was a few months or even years following the operation; sometimes it was very soon after. Either way, the Egyptians did not learn from the outcome of these types of operations – showing that they did not make a lot of progress from them.As anaesthetics had not been discovered in Egyptian times, all operations had to be done while the patient was fully conscious. This would have caused great pain and suffering to the victim.

Infection was extremely common – Surgery tools were by no means hygienic as they were used for many operations without being properly cleaned and disinfected. This inevitably caused diseases in which patients often died from when the open wound became infected.Thankfully, some treatments had a far better effect. These were known as common sense cures. If a person had something visibly wrong with them outside the body, such as a broken ankle, it was easier to deal with rather than something that was inside the body, like a headache.

The cure for a broken ankle was to wrap it up in mud and leaves until it healed. The person would still walk with a limp, but the bone partially knitted itself back together again. The Egyptians did not fully understand why these treatments worked, but continued to use them anyway. Nowadays, broken limbs are still plastered to give the bone adequate time in which to heal. This shows that we have learnt something from the ancient Egyptians by their common sense cures.I think in some ways the Egyptians were quite successful in their development of medicine because they were the first people to develop a written knowledge of anatomy and surgery.

A wide range of operations took place, but many were not advanced treatments and often resulted in great pain or even death. Some operations they carried out did not work, and the fact that the Egyptians still persisted in them does not suggest their knowledge and understanding of medicine was very sound. However, some cures used in Egypt at the time are still used in modern day society. This shows us that the Egyptians did make some considerable progress during their trial and error experimentations.

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