Vascular medicine and surgery in ancient Egypt

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Abstract

Lauded alike by ancient civilizations and modern society, pharaonic Egyptian medicine remains an object of fascination today. This article discusses its surprisingly sophisticated understanding of a cardiovascular system. The term “cardiovascular system,” however, carries assumptions and meanings to a modern audience, especially readers of this journal, which simply do not apply when considering ancient conceptions of the heart and vessels. For lack of better language, this article will use “cardiovascular” and similar terms while recognizing the anachronistic inaccuracy. After briefly summarizing ancient Egyptian medicine generally, it will review the anatomy, pathology, and treatment of the vasculature. The practice of mummification in ancient Egypt provides a unique opportunity for paleopathology, and the conclusion will explore evidence of arterial disease from a modern scientific perspective.

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