Nov 29, 2010

physicians in ancient Egypt

Hesyre was the oldest known physician in history. He was the “Chief of Dentists and Physicians” at the time of King Zoser (3rd 
The lay physician was named “swnw” (sunu). The profession was so organized, with the swnw over-ranked by Overseer of physicians (imy-r swnw), Chief physician (wr swnw), Eldest physician (smsw swnw), Inspector of physicians (shd swnw), and finally Overseer of Physicians of Upper and Lower Egypt. Some sunus were scribes, with the ability to to read medical texts, while others were not.
Magic physicians also existed, and were named “sau”. In between “swnw” and “sau” were priests of Sekhmet (a lioness-goddess, worshiped in Memphis as a creature of vengeance to punish mankind for his sins) who can inflict death and disease. Her priests used to heal those whom she punished, were medically qualified but not to bear the title “swnw”. The three types of physicians, with scientific medicine and magical one, coexisted peacefully.

Imhotep, the god of Healing 
There was no specific term to describe a surgeon or veterinary. However, specialty was pushed to the extremity, during the Old Kingdom and Late Period. There had been specialists for the eye, teeth, mouth, stomach pains and physicians of uncertain diseases. The title “Shepherd of the anus of the Pharaoh”, was encountered to men honored to administer enema to the king.
Hesyre Chief of Dentists and Physicians       Hesyre was the oldest known physician in history. He was the “Chief of Dentists and Physicians” at the time of King Zoser (3rd dynasty, 2700 - 2625 BC).

Peseshet was the oldest female physician in the world, practicing at the time of the pyramids (4th dynasty). She was titled “Lady Overseer of the Lady Physicians”, and supervised a corps of ladies who were qualified physicians, not midwives. She graduated midwives at the peri-ankh (medical school) of Sais.
Outstanding physicians were deified and worshiped. Temples were erected to to honor Imhotep, the physician and Vizier of King Zoser of the 3rd dynasty. He was an astronomer, architect and the builder of the Stepped Pyramid at Saqqara too. Imhotep was worshiped as the god of Healing and medicine. The Greeks later identified him with their own humanized god of healing, Asclepias. His statue stands today in the Hall of Immortals at the International College of Surgeons in Chicago.

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