The pharaoh’s pharmacists

Here’s an article from, reprinted by the Orlando Sentinal: Health-care plan in ancient Egypt? Research suggests more than spells, prayers.

As Egyptian mummies go, Asru is a major celebrity. During her life in the 8th century B.C., she was known for her singing at the temple of Amun in Karnak; now she’s famous for her medical problems. Forensic studies have revealed that although Asru lived into her 60s, she was not a well woman. She had furred-up arteries, desert lung (pneumoconiosis) caused by breathing in sand, osteoarthritis, a slipped disc, periodontal disease and possibly diabetes, as well as parasitic worms in her intestine and bladder. Her last years must have been full of pain and suffering. After all, what could her doctor do to help? Say a few prayers and recite a spell or two?

If you read the history books, that’s about as much as Asru could expect. But not according to Jackie Campbell at the KNH Center for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester in England. Her research suggests that Asru’s doctor probably consulted a handbook of remedies and prescribed something to soothe her cough, deaden the pain in her joints and perhaps even expel some of those worms. What’s more, Campbell’s findings indicate that Asru’s doctor had more than 1,000
years of pharmaceutical expertise to draw on.

If she’s right, the history of medicine needs rewriting. [continue}

(I love finding reprints of interesting New Scientist articles, because makes you pay for a subscription before you can read an entire article.)

One thought on “The pharaoh’s pharmacists

  1. Yes, I know what you mean. They give you only a couple of paragraphs to whet your interest in the topic and then trail off in the middle of a sentence. I’ve tried googling the topic of the article, but sometimes New Scientist is the only source.

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