KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology

Pharmacy and Medicine in Ancient Egypt

Investigation into the medical and pharmaceutical traditions of ancient Egypt is an extension of the main research area at the KNH Centre, palaeopathology. A number of wide ranging projects over the past decade have been undertaken within the department in this area.

Dr Jacky Finch has investigated the false toes found with some mummies. Her widely reported results have confirmed previous suggestions that some of these would have been functional prosthetics.

A large project funded by The Leverhulme Trust (2006-2009) into the ancient Egyptian medical papyri has confirmed the efficacy of many of the surviving prescriptions. Some of the uncertain or unknown plants mentioned in the papyri have been plausibly identified. It has also been possible to identify some of the trade routes that brought medically useful plants and other ingredients into Egypt from the 4th millennium BC.

Our interest in this field is ongoing. Offshoots of the pharmacy project are being devised to further our understanding of how the ancient Egyptian treated diseases. Other projects, such as the ASN project are providing insights into the treatment of traumatic injuries and even some infectious diseases.

Select bibliography

Finch, J. (2011) The ancient origins of prosthetic medicine. The Lancet 377, No. 9765, p. 548-549.

Cockitt, J.A. and David, A.R. (2010) Pharmacy and Medicine in Ancient Egypt. Proceedings of the Conference held in Cairo (2007) and Manchester (2008). BAR International Series 2141.

David, A.R. and Zimmerman, M.R. (2010) Cancer: an old disease, a new disease or something in between? Nature Reviews Cancer 10, No. 10, p. 728-733.