Doctors appear to have had fairly good knowledge about bone structure and some awareness of how the brain and liver worked. The heart : According to the Ebers Papyrus, the center of the body's blood supply is the heart, and every corner of the body is attached to vessels. The heart was the meeting point for vessels that carried tears, urine, semen, and blood. Researchers writing in described ancient Egyptian understanding of the cardiovascular system as "surprisingly sophisticated, if not accurate. Mental illness : The document describes in detail the characteristics, causes, and treatment for mental disorders such as dementia and depression.
The ancient Egyptians appear to have seen mental diseases as a combination of blocked channels and the influence of evil spirits and angry Gods. Family planning : The scroll contains a section on birth control , how to tell if a person is pregnant, and some other gynecological issues. They advised people to wash and shave their bodies to prevent infections, to eat carefully, and to avoid unclean animals and raw fish.
Some, however, are less familiar. Putting a plug of crocodile dung into the entrance of the vagina, for example, was a method of birth control. People also used dung to disperse evil spirits. Remedies included :. Everyday life in Egypt involved beliefs and fear of magic, gods, demons, evils spirits, and so on. They believed that the gods created and controlled life. Heka was the goddess of magic and medicine , while Bes, another god, protected women during pregnancy.
People called upon Serket if they had a scorpion bite.
Angry gods or evil forces caused bad luck and disaster, so people used magic and religion to deal with these forces and to treat people. Priests and doctors were often one and the same. Many healers were priests of Sekhmet, an Egyptian warrior goddess and the goddess of healing, curses, and threats.
As well as science, treatment involved the use of magic, incantations, amulets, aromas, offerings, tattoos, and statues. The religious and magic rituals and procedures probably had a powerful placebo effect, so they may have resulted in healing. The "channel theory" came from observing farmers who dug out irrigations channels for their crops.
It allowed medicine to move from entirely spiritual cures towards practical, natural ones. The doctors believed that, as in irrigation, channels provide the body with routes for good health.
If blockages occurred, they used laxatives to unblock them. It is true that human veins, arteries, and intestines are types of tubes. However, the Egyptians did not understand that these channels had different functions. Blockages in the human channels were thought to result from the doings of Wekhedu , an evil spirit. When Wekhedu came to the surface of the body, it showed as pus. This idea that bodily function played a role in health was a breakthrough in the history of medicine.
One researcher notes that they believed that bodily fluids could enter this system, including feces. This would have a negative effect, and enemas became an important method of treatment for many conditions, including malaria and smallpox. The Ebers Papyrus notes that vessels run from the heart to all four limbs and every part of the body. When a doctor, Sekmet priest, or exorcist places their hands on any part of the body, they are examining the heart, because all vessels come from the heart.
Channel theory holds that :. Egyptian physicians underwent training and could successfully fix broken bones and dislocated joints. Basic surgery — meaning procedures close to the surface of the skin or on the skin — was a common skill, and doctors knew how to stitch wounds effectively. They used bandages and would bind certain plant products, such as willow leaves, into the bandages to treat inflammation. However, they did not perform surgery deep inside the body, probably because there were no anesthetics or antiseptics.
Circumcision of baby boys was common practice. It is hard to tell whether female circumcision existed.
There is one mention, but this may be a mistranslation. Surgeons had an array of instruments, such as pincers, forceps, spoons, saws, containers with burning incense, hooks, and knives. Prosthetics existed, but they were probably not very practical. People may have used them to make deceased people look more presentable during funerals or simply for decorative purposes. Egyptian doctors said there were three types of injuries:. Contestable injuries : The doctor believed these were not life-threatening and that the person could survive without intervention.
The doctor would observe the patient.
If they survived, the doctor would decide in time whether to intervene. Mash together flour, incense, wood of wa, waneb plant, mint , a horn of a stag, sycamore seeds, mason's plaster, seeds of zart, water. Apply to the head. Other conditions and treatments include :. Some treatments used products or herbs or plants that looked similar to the illness they were treating, a practice known as simila similibus , or similar with similar.
Today, homeopathy follows a similar principle. In Egyptian times, people used ostrich eggs to treat a fractured skull. Cleanliness was an important part of Egyptian life, and homes had rudimentary baths and toilets. Appearance and the use of make-up were important. The main aim was to meet social and religious requirements, although many people wore make-up around their eyes to protect them from disease. People used mosquito nets during the hot months, whether to protect against malaria and other diseases or to avoid bites.
Malaria was a common problem. Priests washed themselves, their clothing, and their eating utensils regularly. This helped to protect their health, although they did it for religious reasons.
There was no public health infrastructure as we know of today. There were no sewage systems, systematic medical care, or public hygiene. Herodotus claimed that construction of the Great Pyramid—today calculated at over six million tons of stone—was carried out using slave labor. It is now known this building was undertaken, in fact, by paid Egyptian laborers. The notion that Egyptian monuments were built by slaves—such as the plight of the Hebrew slaves recounted in the biblical book of Exodus—seems to have had currency in the ancient world.
Such colossal building projects would have left some kind of archaeological trace, and so it was amid huge excitement that in archaeologists started to uncover the village housing of the workmen who built the two later pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure. Both village and cemetery offer archaeologists a mine of valuable data about the conditions in which the two smaller pyramids of Giza were built—data that, in turn, gives a working hypothesis as to the construction of the pyramid of Khufu.
Yet these laborers, far from being slaves, were privileged civil servants, and beneficiaries of a number of enviable perks. Evidence that broken limbs and fractures had been set correctly strongly suggests adequate medical care was provided.
One of the skeletons in the cemetery had a leg amputated so precisely that experts estimate that the patient lived for some 20 years after the operation. In fact, the village seems to have had a maximum capacity of 20, people, of whom perhaps half were dedicated to construction at any one time. The daunting challenges of building such a structure, and efficiently marshaling thousands of workers, required meticulous planning. Scribes set about calculating the number of blocks that would be required to build a pyramid with the selected gradient—in the case of Khufu, the angle of the sides with the ground is 52 degrees—the kind of mathematical problem recorded in Egyptian mathematical papyri, and at which Egyptian civil servants excelled.
Graffiti and inscriptions at the site have also enabled scholars to piece together telling facts about life on this colossal construction site. Blocks found with dates from all seasons in the Egyptian calendar suggest the pyramids were built year-round and not just when the Nile was in flood.
The practice was continued by their successors. Western Cemetery Hemiunu, architect of the Great Pyramid, has his mastaba here. Boat Pit Now excavated and on display at the site, it was believed the boat buried here would carry Khufu into the afterlife.
Entrance The main entrance to the pyramid was on its northern side. In an attempt to camouflage it, the builders covered it with a vast slab of limestone. The ruse was discovered by looters later in antiquity.
Grand Gallery The initial ascending corridor, barely three feet high, opens out into this imposing gallery about 26 feet high but only six feet wide, with a roof formed of corbels. Antechamber Originally blocked by vast blocks of granite. This lies empty, either because the mummy was stolen long ago—or because Khufu was buried elsewhere. There are many types of pyramids and not all were built in the same way. But as construction progressed, and engineers became more confident, they used larger blocks. Much of the stonework in the Giza Pyramids came from a quarry barely half a mile to the south of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
The white limestone that once formed the outer casing had a longer journey to Giza, moved by boat along the Nile from Tura, eight miles away.