Friday, September 23, 2005

Ancient Egyptian Secret

Here's something that might actually get me out of the Philly area for a day: the Edwin Smith papyrus:

What researchers call the world's oldest known medical treatise, an Egyptian papyrus offering 4,000-year-old wisdom, has long dwelled in the rare books vault at the New York Academy of Medicine.

It is an extraordinary remnant of a culture that was already ancient when Rome was new and Athens was a backwater - Egypt's stone monuments endure, but the scrolls made of pulped reeds have mostly been lost. One expert, James H. Breasted, who translated the papyrus in the 1920's, called it "the oldest nucleus of really scientific knowledge in the world." Yet relatively few people know of it, and fewer have seen it.

It is about to become much better known. After a short trip down Fifth (insert down-the-Nile metaphor here) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the papyrus will go on public display, probably for the first time, on Tuesday, as part of the Met's exhibition "The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt." The show will also include items like a CAT scan of a mummy, surgical needles and other medical artifacts.

I guess spending a few months with Nicander makes medical history seem not so unappealing as it might otherwise have been.

MedGadget has more, including a previous post which links to an interactive translation (click the symptom and read the suggestion).

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