Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus: 17th century BC

papyrusThe National Library of Medicine has provided online access to the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. The papyrus was discovered in Egypt by American archeologist Edwin Smith in the 1860′s. The text is thought to have been created around 1600 BC. Written in Ancient Egyptian hieratic script, the papyrus contains 48 cases of wounds and trauma and offers a detailed description of the injuries, diagnoses, prognoses, and treatments. The original papyrus currently resides at the Library of the New York Academy of Medicine. However, utilizing Turning The Pages technology, visitors can unroll the scroll virtually to check out the manuscript and view the translations on their own computers.

Sample case from the papyrus: “Head wound with skull fracture exposing the brain“.

Examination and Prognosis: Probe wound. “Should you find that fracture that is in his skull like those ripples that happen in copper through smelting, with a thing in it that throbs and flutters under your fingers like the weak spot in the crown of a boy before it becomes whole for him … while he bleeds through his nostrils and suffers stiffness in his neck: an ailment for which nothing is done”.

Explanation: As for “which has fractured his skull and exposed the brain of his skull” it is a big fracture which is open to the inside of his skull and the membrane that covers his brain; it has to fracture so that it gushes from inside his head”.

Treatment: “You should sprinkle that wound of his with oil. You should not bandage him. You should not put dressings on him until you learn he arrives at a turning point”.

Check it out if you have a chance. It is very interesting to compare medicine of today with ancient treatments and diagnoses.