HomeScience & TechAncient Egyptian Skull Analysis Reveals Early Attempts at Cancer Treatment

Ancient Egyptian Skull Analysis Reveals Early Attempts at Cancer Treatment

The ancient Egyptians were indeed sophisticated in many areas, including medicine, where their skills and knowledge continue to provide insights even today. Despite their advancements, cancer remained a significant challenge for them, as it does for modern medicine. However, recent findings from the University of Cambridge’s Duckworth Collection reveal that the Egyptians made attempts to treat cancer, showcasing their experimental approaches to this deadly disease over 4,000 years ago.

Evidence from Two Skulls of Egypt

Two skulls from ancient Egypt, examined using microscopic and CT scan analysis, reveal different aspects of cancer treatment and trauma care.

skull 236

Skull Number 236:

Period: Between 2687 and 2345 BCE.

Individual: Male, early 30s at death.

Findings: The skull had around 30 lesions consistent with metastasized carcinoma. Some lesions were small, but there were larger, more destructive ones, including a coin-sized divot.

cut marks

The edges of the lesions showed cut marks, suggesting that an ancient surgeon attempted to remove the cancerous tissue with a metal tool. The lack of healing around these cut marks indicates the surgery occurred close to the time of death, possibly as a last-resort treatment.

Skull Number E270:

Period: Between 663 and 343 BCE.

Individual: Female, over 50 at death.

Findings: The skull had a significant lesion consistent with osteosarcoma or meningioma. Additionally, there were well-healed injuries from sharp-force and blunt-force trauma, indicating the individual survived these injuries, possibly due to medical treatment.

skull 270

Observations: Unlike the male skull, there is no clear evidence of surgical intervention for the cancerous lesion on the woman’s skull. The healed injuries raise questions about the woman’s involvement in violent activities, possibly even warfare.

Implications and Insights

•The findings from skull 236 suggest that ancient Egyptian surgeons were attempting surgical interventions to treat cancer, showing their advanced medical practices and willingness to explore new treatments.

•The evidence indicates that cancer was a recognized and challenging disease in ancient Egypt. Despite their sophisticated medical knowledge, curing cancer eluded them, much like it challenges modern medicine.

•The healed traumatic injuries on the female skull imply that women may have had active roles in violent or warfare-related activities, challenging traditional views of gender roles in ancient societies.

•These findings provide a deeper understanding of how ancient societies interacted with complex diseases like cancer. They also highlight the limitations of ancient medical knowledge and the continuous struggle against cancer throughout history.

In conclusion, while ancient Egyptian medicine was remarkably advanced and capable of dealing with various medical issues, cancer remained a formidable challenge. The attempts to treat cancer, evidenced by surgical marks on the skull, demonstrate the Egyptians’ experimental approach to medicine and their enduring legacy in the history of medical science.

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