Medical services in ancient Egypt

Sep 23, 2010

Medical services in ancient Egypt

Sunus were appointed by the state, with medical attention granted for every citizen. During the building of the pyramids, medical services were available at high standards. Methen was the “swnw gereget” or “Colony Physician” appointed for their camp. Employees and workers enjoyed a medical insurance. An interesting text shows a temple employee being hit in his eye during work and was dismissed due to his physical incapacity. He was reinstated after pleading that the accident was a work injury, and demanded that the temple should pay all expenses of his medical care.

There was no fixed age for retirement except for physical incapacity. The Papyrus of Anastasi IV shows that workers had the right to claim a pension in case of invalidity. Sick leaves were allowed. A limestone dated the 40th regnal year of Ramses II (19th dynasty, 1240 BC) bears a list of 40 names of absenteeism, with the most frequent cause being illness. The Turin Papyrus informs that neither sick nor broken workers were commanded to lift stones. The working time schedule was fixed to 4 hours in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, with a meal and nap in between to avoid sunstroke.

Medical facilities were available at mines and quarries. The Sinai Stella gives the name of Chief Physician “Ren-ef-Seneb” among the expeditionary crew searching for copper and turquoise. Perhipidje was the Community Physician at Dair-el-Medina.

Data regarding military medicine is scarce. An inscript illustrates a man caring for the leg of his fellow in the rear of the battle of Kadesh (1274 BC). Hygienic disciplinary procedures were practiced for army personnel. Egypt was the first country in history to practice the tradition of hair trimming to avoid insect infestation. A tradition still practiced in modern armies.


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