Egyptian Doctors

Egyptian Physicians

Egyptian physicians have been popularised in modern culture through a number of films and books relating to Imhotep. The truth about doctors and physicians within Ancient Egypt is extraordinary. An ancient civilisation that formulated clear guidance on surgical procedures and treatments of a wide variety of illnesses. Having given us the earliest medical books and a significant amount of evidence relating to medicine, we have much to thank the ancient Egyptian doctors for.

Imhotep. Renouned physician and doctor to the Pharaoh's.
Imhotep. Renouned physician and doctor to the Pharaoh’s.

Modern medicine owes much to the Ancient Egyptians. Most famous of the Egyptian physicians is Imhotep, who is also renowned for his role as a Pyramid designer. Physicians such as Imhotep used a variety of methods to heal patients but based much of their practice upon religious belief: physicians in Ancient Egypt were also priests. It was common for different priests to act as physicians for different parts of the body, in much the same way that doctors specialise now, as they believed that different gods governed different sectors of the human body.

Much of what we now know of Egyptian medicine and the work of the physicians comes from a variety of medical documents written by these physician-priests. These documents, known as ‘papyrus’ are the first known records of medical practice: a significant, if rather obvious, development on prehistoric practices. The various papyrus documents that have been recovered and translated show us that the Egyptians had developed an understanding of medicine: they inform us of cures to some illnesses and that they performed surgical operations to remove cysts and tumours.

Papyrus Ebers. One of the best preserved medical documents from Ancient Egypt. Doctors were expected to follow these guidelines precisely.
Papyrus Ebers. One of the best preserved medical documents from Ancient Egypt.

Evidence of Ancient Egyptian Doctors and Physicians at work

The evidence provided by these early medical training manuals is quite remarkable. They show quite clearly that the Egyptians had identified and developed cures for a wide range of diseases, many of which cures are still in use today (Direct pressure on cuts to stop bleeding for example). Such was the extent of Egyptian knowledge that there are records of over 800 medical procedures and a vast array of surgical tools. There are also records of remedies that make use of over 600 drugs.