Roger Forshaw
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Trauma care, surgery and remedies in ancient Egypt
A reassessment
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The treatment of trauma and surgery in ancient Egypt witnessed the development of an elaborate clinical methodology. Today a reassessment of this methodology in the light of more recent studies can further our understanding of these two disciplines in this ancient culture. Breasted’s 1930 translation of the Edward Smith Papyrus was a landmark in understanding the treatment of trauma in ancient Egypt and now a translation by Sanchez and Meltzer in 2012 has provided a new insight into this important medical papyrus. However, certain areas of treatment such as amputations and sustained traction for fractures have not been identified in the textual sources, but recent palaeopathological evidence is able to provide some understanding of these procedures. Additionally, there are a number of problems associated with understanding the compounds and medicaments listed in the medical papyri that were used to treat various ailments. The composition of many of these remedies is unknown whilst others do not have the same composition as their modern equivalents. Some of these materials have proven pharmacological effects, but a number of others have often been dismissed as having no therapeutic value. Recent investigations into the constituents of the remedies demonstrate that materials once thought to be of no therapeutic value may have some benefits and therefore need to be reassessed.

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