At the temple of Kom Ombo near Aswan, an enigmatic frieze depicts the deified pharaoh Imhotep receiving a set of elaborate implements, some of which strikingly resemble modern surgical instruments: side by side with eye-of-Horus amulets one finds what surely must be forceps. Evidence of the medical practice of ancient Egypt has come down to us not only in pictorial art but also in papyrus scrolls, in funerary inscriptions, and in the mummified bodies of ancient Egyptians themselves.
Bruno Halioua and Bernard Ziskind provide a comprehensive account of pharaonic medicine that is illuminated by what modern science has discovered about the lives (and deaths) of people from all walks of life--farmers, fishermen, miners, soldiers, scribes and priests, embalmers, construction workers, bakers, prostitutes. From mummies and medical papyri we are able to recognize the aches of osteoarthritis, imagine the occupational hazards faced by press-ganged stonemasons, and learn of the gynecological complaints of courtesans. In presenting these stories Halioua and Ziskind throw light on some of the most enduring questions about life and death in antiquity: about physicians whose skills predate Hippocrates by twenty-five centuries and were first made famous by Homer; about the remedies and techniques they employed, at once strange and strangely familiar; about the men, women, and children they treated; and about the diseases and injuries they were called upon to heal.