How cancer was treated in ancient Egypt 4000 years ago

Ancient Egypt is famous not only for monumental buildings, mummies and the cult of death. He left behind a huge cultural heritage for world civilization. In particular, medicine was well developed here, which became the source of ancient Egyptian medicine and is the source and predecessor of scientifically based medicine. Surviving ancient manuscripts prove the ancient Egyptians' scientific understanding of many diseases. And some of the principles and doctrines taught in ancient Egyptian medical schools remain relevant to this day. The current study has become another confirmation of this – it showed that cancer tumors were operated on in Ancient Egypt.

How cancer was treated in Ancient Egypt 4000 years ago. Medicine was well developed in Ancient Egypt. Photo.

Medicine was well developed in Ancient Egypt

The oldest mention of cancer in Egypt

Ancient Egyptian texts say that thousands of years ago doctors were looking for innovative methods of treating caries, physical injuries and various diseases. True, some Egyptian methods of treatment may shock modern people. It has also long been known that in Ancient Egypt they knew well about cancer.

The earliest description of cancer dates back to 1600 AD. An ancient papyrus mentioned breast tumors, but stated that there was no cure for them. A recent study suggests that ancient physicians made a serious attempt to cure the tumor.

The oldest mention of cancer in Egypt. Scientists found traces of surgical intervention around a tumor on the skull. Photo source: Photo.

Around the tumor on the skull, scientists found traces of surgery. Photo source:

How cancer was treated in ancient Egypt

In a recent study, scientists analyzed human skulls from the Duckworth Collection at the University of Cambridge. All of them dated back to the period 2686-2345 BC. One of them had features of a large primary tumor, and more than 30 metastatic lesions consistent with carcinoma were found around it. But the most interesting thing is that these injuries were surrounded by small cuts caused by a sharp object.

Scientists suggest that the cuts indicate an attempt by the ancient Egyptians to operate on a person to cure cancer. The patient was a 30-year-old man who did not undergo surgery. The fact that the man died is indicated by the absence of signs of healing of the cuts. Moreover, it is quite possible that they were inflicted during a post-mortem medical examination, as reported in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

As the scientists themselves comment on the discovery, the results of the study are the first and so far the only evidence that doctors in Ancient Egypt tried to fight cancer, or at least researched it more than four thousand years ago.

How cancer was treated in Ancient Egypt. The skull of an ancient woman shows signs of serious trauma. Photo source: Photo.

The skull of an ancient woman shows signs of serious trauma. Photo source:

Head injuries were treated in ancient Egypt

During the study, the authors also drew attention to another skull, which belonged to a woman who died at the age of more than 50 years. She died between 663 and 343 BC. There are also traces of cancer on the skull. According to the researchers, the lesion corresponds to osteosarcoma or meningioma.

In addition, above the left eyebrow on the skull there are traces of a large wound received as a result of a strong blow. Most likely, someone hit the woman on the head with a sharp weapon. In addition, on the left side of the top of the head there are marks from a strong blow with a blunt object. But what is most interesting is that the wounds have healed well.

Scientists do not know whether the wounds were received at the same time or during life. But what is certain is that none of the wounds led to death. Most likely, the woman received quality treatment. As for the cancer, unlike the man’s skull, scientists did not find any traces of his treatment.

In Ancient Egypt they treated head injuries. Perhaps there were women warriors in Ancient Egypt. Photo.

Perhaps there were female warriors in Ancient Egypt

The cause of death of both people remains a mystery, since it is impossible to establish it with certainty. However, in both cases they had an advanced stage of cancer, so it can be assumed that both people died from cancer. It is not surprising that the treatment did not bring results, since even now scientists still cannot completely defeat cancer.

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The cause of serious injuries to the woman’s head also remains a mystery. It can be assumed that she took part in hostilities. In this case, scientists will have to rethink the role of women in ancient times, including participation in conflicts. In fact, scientists have previously found evidence that in ancient times women participated in wars. For example, archaeologists recently discovered the remains of an ancient “Amazon” on the territory of Armenia. More information about this can be found at the link.