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The Gynaecological Papyrus Kahun

Written By

Helena Trindade Lopes and Ronaldo G. Gurgel Pereira

Reviewed: April 27th, 2021 Published: October 13th, 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.98039

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The Papyrus Kahun is oldest known Egyptian medical document addressing issues of midwifery, dating back to the second Millennium BC. Here it follows a study of the papyrus, featuring hieroglyphic text and its transliteration and translation versions. This work also features commentaries regarding the papyrus’ medical substances and some linguistic evidences on the intimacy between spiritual and physical spheres in the Egyptian therapeutics. After the papyrus text, there is an Egyptian-English glossary.


  • History of Medicine
  • Papyrology
  • Kahun
  • Ancient Egypt
  • Gynaecology

1. Introduction

The Gynaecological Papyrus Kahun1, the oldest known medical papyrus, was discovered by W. M. Flinders Petrie in 1889, in a place near the modern city of Lahun, in Fayum [1]2. The papyrus was in a very bad state of preservation, therefore it had to be carefully restored, in 1890, by Francis Griffith so he could, finally, be able to make the first hieroglyphic transcription of the hieratic text and its publication3 still in 1898 [2]. Nowadays it is conserved in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London (UC 32057), in London, United Kingdom.

The papyrus Kahun, dated from the kingdom of Amenemhat III, circa 1825 BCE4 (Middle Kingdom, dynasty XII), is one of the biggest papyri of that period, with about 1 m long for 32 cm high, and features the oldest known treaty of gynaecology and obstetrics, which addresses issues such as fertility, pregnancy, contraception, and gynaecological diseases.

The work comprises three pages, is divided into 34 horizontal columns, oriented from the right to the left, that have a common format: begin with a brief report of the symptoms; then, the doctor is advised on how to approach the patient to present his diagnosis and, finally, treatment is suggested. However, no mention is made of the likely prognosis. This process of symptoms, diagnosis, report and treatment described makes up the various sections. Naturally, as in other medical works, Papyrus Kahun refers to an enchantment5.

The suggested treatments are diverse and include fumigations, massages, and medications introduced into the body as pessaries or as a liquid to be drunk or rubbed on the skin. Donkey milk and perfumed oils are part of the medical material to be used in these procedures.

The text does not refer to any proposed surgery. The final paragraphs of the text are dedicated to pregnancy, presenting teachings related to conception which include the use of incense, fresh oil, dates, and beer, to contraception, suggesting the use of crocodile manure and also honey and natron and, again, gynaecological treatments.

After the publication of the Papyrus Kahun by Griffith [2] at the end of the XIX century, only in the second half of the XX century, the text is again the subject of study and publication within the scope of the most important investigation of medical papyri coordinated by H. Grapow [4], between 1954 and 1973. A hieroglyphic transcription of the papyrus Kahun is done in volume V and the translation and commentary of the text is presented in Volume IV.

In 1975, J. Stevens [5], presented an English translation of the text, and in 1995, Th. Bardinet, also presented his translation of the papyrus [6] and some comments on the text.

In 2002 Stephen Quirke published his transliteration and translation of the text online [7] and shared that translation again in the work he produces with M. Collier [8] in 2004.

Finally, in 2017, Didier Fournier introduced us to [9], where he performs the hieroglyphic transcription, transliteration, and translation of the papyrus as well as medical comments and lexical, syntactic and semantic considerations to the text. The work also reproduces the text in hieratic from facsimiles proposed by Griffith in 1898.

In addition to the publication and translation of the papyrus, the studies dedicated to the gynecological treatise presented in Papyrus Kahun are also very small. In 1952, C. D. Leake makes the first references in [10]. In 1992, C. Reeves in a small essay [11] also dedicates two pages to it. Four years later, J. F. Nunn in [1] introduces the papyrus and makes some comments on the text. Finally, in 2011, Lesley Smith published the latest article on the gynaecological papyrus Kahun [12]. Other references, in general works, although very reduced, happen in Strouhal, E., Vachala; B., Vymazalová [13], dated from 2014.

There are multiple semantic definitions and explanations for cure. Some of them are also based on mythical systems. In fact, this work assumes that cure is a double-folded concept. On one hand, the semantic meaning of cure manages to assert a cultural identity and a gender delimitation: Healthy vs. Diseased; Favoured by the gods vs. Abandoned by the gods, etc.

This approach of the Papyrus focuses on the so-called supernatural elements that, by any means are being mentioned in the therapeutics. We understand the separation between magic and medicine was unknown in Ancient Egypt, as they are the product of modern Egyptology problematization. The Egyptian medicine coordinates natural and supernatural elements in their therapeutics. Thus, we shall investigate the ontological specificities of the ancient Egyptian cure process. From the diagnosis to the therapeutics.


2. Commentaries

2.1 On the papyrus

The papyrus was composed in Hieratic, using a simple and direct language. It was probably compiled from some personal notes or a vade mecum.

There are 34 cases, along 3 columns of horizontal text, written from right to the left. Its first column (Figure 1) has 33.5 cm of height and starts the gynaecological tractate. This section has 29 short lines of text in good conditions.

Figure 1.

Plate VI.1 (columns 1–2).

I.Headingšsⳍw s.t ḥr mn A, B, C etc.“Treatment/Experiences on a woman who suffers from A, B, C, etc.”
II.Investigationnot present in typology 4a
aintroductionḏd.ḫr = k r = s“Then/consequently, you should say to her (on this regard)”:
b = ddiagnosis = causa“D” pw“This is a D-disease!”
creasoningnot present in typology 4a
IV.Treatmentjrj.ḫr = k r = s“Then/consequently, you should do for her (or even: ‘then, you should do against it’)”.

Table 1.

Text structure of typology 4a.

Adaptation from Pommerening, 2014, p. 32.

The second column (Figures 1 and 2) has 38.5 cm of height and presents heavy damage on the central area of the page, between lines 26 and 59. So, only 7 lines out of its original 30 are complete. The second column also presents longer lines of text than the first one.

Figure 2.

Plate VI.2: (columns 2–3).

The third column (Figure 2) measures 33 cm of height and is also heavily damaged. Its 28 lines of text are the longest of the tractate. However, only one line is complete, from the beginning to the end. This column is divided into fragments A and B. Fragment B is just a small scrap with 4 incomplete illegible lines. Therefore, this work will deal with column 3 - fragment B only.

Another point of interest concerning column 3 is the transition to a totally different style of heading and organization of the treatments. That suggests column 1 and 2 have the same origin, while column 3 was copied from a different source.

For didactical matters, we decided to revert the text direction when we established the hieroglyphic matrix of this version. We also decided to present the source in a format case-by-case for reasons of practicality. The present version of the text was originally built in Portuguese [14], and then, translated into English.

2.2 On the therapeutics

The 34 cases described in the papyrus are normally divided into mini-sections with the support of red ink. First, the disease is described. After making the diagnosis directly to the patient, a treatment is given.

The treatment presents the ingredients and, occasionally, the precise dosage of each element. Interestingly, this papyrus gives preference to generic measures, such as “spoon” or “jar”. Then, the method of preparing the ingredients is concluded by the way the medicine must be applied to the patient.

Medicines are always taken orally, inserted into the vagina, or applied on the skin using massages or bandages. Fumigation seems to be the most common therapy, always incorporating various ointments with incense. There is great concern about therapy with the patient’s uterus. Virtually all the diseases described are somehow linked to an origin in the uterus, and it is through the uterus that they seek to treat them [15].

The translation of this document took care to compare hieroglyphic versions established by British authors with Griffith’s (1898) slides of hieratic text. It is interesting to note that all the translations previously cited reproduce the text in hieratic from facsimiles proposed by Griffith.

Hence, we found that the present version promoted “corrections” in the vocabulary proposed by previous works. The reader will find two diagnoses of incurable diseases (cases V and XIII), that are normally left aside by English translations. There is a short discussion on the spiritual dimension on Egyptian medicine (2.4). Further contributions are the identification of ingredients in the materia prima section (2.5), and of the procedure of verifying the patient’s arterial pulse

mnjⳍ (cases XXIX and XXXII).

2.3 P.Kahun as an educational text

From its 34 cases, there are 18 occurrences (1–17 & 25) where the papyrus actually can be used as a didactic textbook. In those texts, there is an approach aiming to guide the reader across each step of the therapeutic process. Such texts adopt the sequential sḏm.ḫr = f (“then, he should listen”) providing the reader with the “what follow next” for each section. It is possible to summarize this pattern as the following:

  • A heading to identify each new case (e.g. “A treatment for a woman who suffers A, B, C, etc.”). A diagnostic is proposed to the reader. Then, the text concludes the first section with the recommendation: “then you should say to her” and announce the treatment.

  • The diagnosis is described via a nominal identification sentence: “Disease-D” pw (this is a disease-D);

  • Finally, the papyrus proceeds with the next step with the sayings: “then you must prepare for her” (here translated as “(then,) you should treat her), followed by the prescription of ingredients for each case and the right way of its application.

The didactic structure of this papyrus fits with the features of typology 4a, as proposed by [15], from which the table below is based on (Table 1).

2.4 Regarding incurable diseases and spiritual influences

The Egyptian believed that both physical and the spiritual spheres of being were closely linked. The whole physical existence was understood as part of an eternal struggle between the cosmic forces of chaos and order. Simply put, a disease was nothing more than the physical manifestation of spiritual causes.

That said, a disease that was known to be intractable had its existence ascribed to some harmful spiritual force. These forces had several names, which traditionally Egyptologists translate as “demon”, although that word does not have a direct equivalent in the Egyptian language.

In this papyrus we find only two therapies mentioning irreversible conditions. The term used to describe them is “bṯw” 

, that is, a malefactor, according to lemma 10241 in [16]. The determinative
(I 14) suggests a spiritual origin for that evildoer, meaning “demon”.

That hieroglyph also is used as determinative of several minor spiritual powers [17], like – for instance - 

ⳍkryw (chthonic gods or demons) in the Coffin Texts (II, 112e – Spell 105, S1C). However, it must be remarked the word bṯw is also synonymous with “incurable disease”.

Due to a strong tendency to hide or diminish the importance of the spiritual in Egyptian medicine, the anglophone authors consulted translate btw as “worm” [7, 8] and “colic” [2], which is simply impossible, given the importance of the term at the conclusion of those cases.

Another connection between the physical and spiritual spheres in the Egyptian therapeutics is the usage of the verb

dr. The word means equally “to expel” (case VIII: residuals from the body), “to drive away” (cases XXVIII and XXXIII: “pain”) and is synonym with “to exorcize” (demons and disease demons) in the dictionary, lemna 39117 [16].

Generally speaking [3, 17, 18], a disease whose origin is ascribed to a spiritual origin sometimes can also/only be treated through magic formulas and prayers. Those incantations, or “heka” are normally dedicated to gods or minor spiritual entities, which would also be translated as “demons”, but which are not necessarily evil forces. In this document, there is only a single case of enchantment, in the form of a prayer to Horus (case XXX), but the text is too damaged to let one understand exactly the possible usage of that magic formula.

2.5 On the medical materia prima6

The prescriptions of this papyrus normally combine ingredients of vegetal, animal and mineral origin in their different estates (solid, liquid, etc). Ingredients of mineral origin occur in less variety and those of animal origin are even rarer. There are multiple ways of preparation: fumigation, ingestion, etc.

It is possible to divide the medical materia prima in two greater groups, by distinguishing ingredients of anthropic nature (it needs to be manipulated and transformed by man) versus ingredients that can be found in its natural milieu [18]. Thus, the Egyptian pharmacopeia is composed by hundreds of products collected and/or transformed from local flora and fauna.

In fact, Egyptian vegetal ingredients are mostly related to endemic specimens, However, out lack of knowledge about the Egyptian vegetal world posits a great obstacle to connect Egyptian names to actual plants. Therefore, traditional works by Egyptologists keep the Egyptian names untranslated [1, 18, 19].

A small lexicon follows, which complements the glossary at the end of this work.


  • Vitex (vitex agnus castus). Case XIII - Its leaves, flowers, seeds and roots can be consumed with food or as an elixir. There is clinical evidence that it works to treat premenstrual tension [20].

  • White Mullbery (Morus alba). Cases X, XII e XVI - Its extract has several medicinal properties. Here we highlight its effect with antibacterial, and in the treatment of hyperuricemia [21].

  • Onion. Case XXVIII

  • Beer. Case VI (to avoid it)

  • Sweet beer. Cases XX e XXIV

  • Fermented/ardent beer. Case X – Normally that term is translated as “djadjat-beer”. It is a beer, fermented in some specific way. As the term djadjat is synonymous with “ardent”, it can be a particularly strong beer.

  • Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). Case XXXIII

  • Ripe figs. Case XVI

  • Fruit (any). Cases III e XVII

  • Fruit of the Onenu-tree. Case XX – Thus far an unidentified tree.

  • Fruit of Egyptian balm (Balanites aegyptiaca). Case XVI - It was necessary to resort to the Hieratic text to propose the replacement of the unknown term

    . The sacred “ished” is a mythical tree referred to in the Book of the Dead spell 335. That passage mentions that it grows in the domain of the gods. A possible translation of “ished” is pistachio (Pistacia vera). However, the Egyptian balm is still used in Africa as a medicinal plant. It is employed to fight parasitic infection, headaches and liver disorders. Plus, its fruit is also indicated for stimulating lactation, while the bark of the tree is a natural abortive [22, 23].

  • Fat/oil/unguent. Cases V e XVI

  • Incense. Cases I, V, XX

  • Watery porridge. Case VI

  • Vegetal mucus of fermented mucilage. Case XIV

  • Vegetal mucus of mixed mucilage. Case XIV

  • Fermented vegetal mucus. Cases XX, XXI e XXIII

  • Pulp of date (for syrups). Case XXIV

  • Dregs of sweet beer. Cases XVII e XXVII

  • Myrrh resin. Case XII

  • Chufa (Cyperus esculentus). Cases III, X, XIII

  • Oil/unguent (new). Cases I, IV e XX

  • Grapes. Case XVI

  • Date syrup. Cases XVII, XX e XXVII


  • Cow milk. Cases III e XV

  • Donkey/ass liver (fresh). Case I

  • Honey. Case XXII

  • Lard/fat of goose’s leg. Case I

  • Milk. Case XVIII


  • Donkey/ass urine. Case V

  • Fermented beer. Case X

  • Malachite powder. Case XV - This is a magical ingredient [18]. The mineral was used as a pigment for the green colour. In Egyptian, the same word can be used for naming “vigor”, “vitality” and “freshness”. Thus, by consuming the green pigment, one also acquired the properties that the magic pun (rebus) [24] provided in via “sympatheia”.

  • Mud. Case VII

  • Natron. Case XXIII

  • Spring water. Case XXV

Unidentified origin

  • Emetic. Case XI (Its ingredients are not described)

  • Fresh fat rancid oil. Case XII (It is not clear whether the fat is animal or vegetal).

2.6 Index of cases


I – Pain in the eyes and throat; vision problems (lines 1–5);

II – Pain in the uterus (lines 5–8);

III – Pain in the lower limbs (lines 8–12);

IV – Abdominal and genital pain (lines 12–15);

V – Pain in the teeth and neck (lines 15–20);

VI – Pain in the limbs and eye sockets (lines 20–22);

VII – Pain in the feet and legs when walking (lines 23–25);

VIII – Pain in the throat, ears and groin; hearing problems (lines 25–27);

IX – Pain in the limbs, vulva and entire body (lines 27–29);


X – Urinary problems (lines 30–34);

XI – A woman who cannot get out of her bed (lines 34–36);

XII – Pain in the legs (lines 36–40);

XIII – Pain in the legs and on the side of (a)… (lines 40–47);

XIV – Thirsty for… (lines 47–49);

XV – Swelling in the groin (lines 49–50);

XVI – Pain in the limbs and in the eye sockets (lines 51–54);

XVII – Hemorrhage… (lines 54–59);


XVIII – Sexual stimulant (line 1);

XIX – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 2–3);

XX – Intoxication due to pregnancy medication (lines 3–6);

XXI – Prevention of ... (line 6);

XXII – Contraceptive (line 7);

XXIII – Treatment for ... (lines 7–8);

XXIV – Muscle cramp (trismus) of the uterus (lines 8–9);

XXV – Fever (lines 9–11);

XXVI – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 12–14);

XXVII – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 15–17);

XXVIII – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 17–19);

XXIX – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 19–20);

XXX – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 20–23);

XXXI – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 23–24);

XXXII – Pregnancy diagnosis (lines 24–26);

XXXIII – Prevent trismus during childbirth (lines 25–26);

XXXIV – Urinary problem (lines 27–28).


3. Hieroglyphic text, transliteration and translation


No. I

1 šsⳍw s.t mr n(j) mⳍⳍ.n=s ḥr mn nḥb.t=s […]

2 ḏd.ḫr=k r=s ḫⳍꜥw pw n jd.t m jr(j).ḫr=k r=s […]

3 kⳍp sj ḥr snṯr ḥr mrḥ.t-mⳍw.t kⳍp

4 kⳍ.t=s ḥr=s kⳍp ḥr jns.wt n.t gnnw

5 rdj.ḫr=k wnm=s mjs.t n.t ꜥⳍ wⳍḏ


1 Treatment of a woman whose eyes are aching till she cannot see, on top of aches in her neck: 2 you should say to her: ” it is discharges of the womb in your eyes!”.

You should treat her: 3 fumigate her with incense and fresh oil, fumigating 4 her vulva with it, and fumigating her eyes with goose leg fat. 5 Then, you should give her to eat a fresh donkey liver.

No. II

5 šsⳍw s.t mr n(j) 6 jd.t=s m ḫp(j) ḏd.ḫr=k r=s ptr ssn.t(=ṯ)

jr ḏd=s n=k jw=j 7 ḥr ssn.t ⳍšr ḏd.ḫr=k r=s nmsw

pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s 8 kⳍp sj ḥr ssn.t=s nb.t m ⳍšr


5 Treatment of a woman in pain. Her 6 womb does not deliver (its period). You should say to her: “What do you smell?”. If she says to you: “I 7 smell some roasting.”

Then you should say to her: “This is some effusion of the womb!”. You should treat her: 8 fumigate her with anything it smells like roast.


8 šsⳍw s.t ḥr 9 mn pḥ(.wj)=sj kns=s wⳍbw n

ḏd.ḫr=k r=s 10 ḫⳍꜥw pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s wꜥḥ šⳍšⳍ qd

11 jrṯ.t hnw 1 pf srf sqbb jr(j) m ḫtjw wꜥ.t 12 swrj

m dwⳍ.t 4


8 Treatment of a woman 9 aching in her hear, groin and perineum. You should say to her: 10 “These are discharges of the womb!”.

Then, you should treat her: 1 qd of chufa (cyperus esculentus), 1 qd of fruit, 1 hin of 11 cow milk. Boil, let it cool down, 12 drink on 4 mornings.

No. IV

šsⳍw s.t ḥr kns=s kⳍ.t=s 13 ḏⳍḏⳍ.t n.t kⳍ.t=s ḫpd.w(j)=s(j)

ḏd.ḫr=k r=s sꜥⳍ wr 14 n ms(j).t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s mrḥ.t mⳍw.t

hnw 1 jwḥ 15 kⳍ[.t=s] m […].t=s


12 Examination of a woman: regarding her groin, vulva and 13 the circuit of her vulva, between her buttocks. You should say to her: “Big dilatation 14 of birth!”.

Then, you should treat her: 1 hin of fresh oil. Pour on her 15 vulva and her […].

No. V

15 šsⳍw s.t ḥr mn jbḥ.w=s nḥ.t=s n(j) 16 rḫ[.t] ns(q)

r(ⳍ)=s ḏd.ḫr=k r=s tjⳍw pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s 17 k[ⳍ]p.jn=k sj

ḥr mrḥ.t snṯr m ḏⳍḏⳍw jwḥ m 18 […]=s mwy.t

n.t ꜥⳍ qmⳍy snw=f hrw 1 n wš=f sj 19 […] j[r]

mn=s [kn]s=s r mn [m] ẖⳍ[b]w=s r mn m ḫpd.w=s

20 bṯw pw


15 Treatment of a woman aching in her teeth and throat to the point that she 16 cannot bite or […] her mouth. You should say to her: “It is a trismus of the womb!”.

Then, you should treat her 17: after fumigating her with incense in a djadjaw-pot, pour on her 18 […] the urine of a donkey that has “created its second” the day after it was feed. 19 If her pain is situated from the bellybutton to her buttocks, it is a demon (untreatable).

No. VI

20 šsⳍw [s.t] mr n ꜥ.wt=s nb.t ḥr mn bⳍbⳍw n

21 ḏd.ḫr=k r=s gⳍ.t pw n.t jd.t n ḫpr nn sswrj

ḥnq.t […] 22 qd m ms(j).t wⳍḏ.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s ḥsb 1 n ⳍḥ ḥr mw

swrj dwⳍ[.t] 1 [+ x]


20 Treatment of a woman aching her limbs and 21 eye-sockets. You should say to her: “It is some deprivation of the womb! No beer-drinking 22 shall grant a healthy birth!”.

Then, you should treat her: 1 hsb of watery porridge. Drink it on 1 [+ x] mornings.


23 šsⳍw s.t ḥr mn rd.wj<t>=sj wꜥ m-ḫ.t šm.t

ḏd.ḫr=k r=s 24 ḫⳍꜥw pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s ꜥmꜥm rd.wj=sj

wꜥ 25 m ꜥmꜥ.t r snb.t=s


23 Treatment of a woman aching in her feet and legs after a walk. You should say to her: “It is a 24 discharge of the womb!”.

Then, you should treat her: rub her feet and legs 25 with mud until she is well.


šsⳍw s.t ḥr mn nḥb.t=s kns=s 26 msḏr.wj=sj (n)n sḏm.n=s mdw.t

ḏd.ḫr=k r=s nrw pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s 27 mjtt n tfⳍ pẖr.t n.t dr

sḥⳍw n jd.t […]


25 Treatment of a woman aching her throat, groin and (so much) 26 her ears that she does not hear what it is said. You should say to her: “This is a tremor of the womb!”.

Then, you should treat her with 27 the same prescription for expelling residuals from the womb […].

No. IX

27 šsⳍw s.t ḥr mn 28 kⳍ.t=s nb.t mjtt ḥw(j).t ḏd.ḫr=k r=s […]

pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s 29 wnm mr[ḥ].t=s [r] snb.t=s


27 Treatment of a woman aching in her 28 vulva and all her limbs, as if she had been beaten. Then, you should say to her: “It is […] of the womb”.

Then, you should treat her: 29 eating fat (a fat diet) until she is well.


No. X

30 šsⳍw s.t [ḥr] mn mwy.t mj […] mwy.t ḏⳍdy.t

ḏd.ḫr=k r=s 31 ḫⳍw [pw n jd.t] jr(j).ḫr=k r=s jwry.t pr[.t]-šnj

mw.t n.t gyw 32 nḏ sn[ꜥꜥ]w ḥr ḥnq.t n ḏⳍḏⳍ.t

hn[w] 1 ps swrj dwⳍ.t 4 33 wrš[=s] sḏr.t ḥqr.t

dwⳍ(.t)=s r swrj [hn]w 1 n-mjtt jrj wrš=s 34 ḥqr.t r

jw(j).t nw sⳍ - jꜥw-r(ⳍ)


30 Treatment of a woman aching when urinating, as if […] burning/fermented. You should say to her: “This is 31 discharges of the womb!”.

Then, you should treat her: beans of white mulberry (morus alba) and chufa (cyperus esculentus). 32 Grind it and dilute in 1 hin of fermented beer. Boil and drink on 4 mornings. May she 33 spend the day fasting on her bed after drinking 1 hin of the same. May she spend the day 35 fasting until the moment of washing her mouth.

No. XI

34 šsⳍw s.t ḥr mr.t n(j) dwn=s n(j) jw=s 35 ḥr [sd]ⳍ.t=f

ḏd.ḫr=k r=s ⳍmmw pw n [jd.t] jr(j).ḫr=k r=s rdj.t swrj=s hnw 2 n

36 ḫⳍwj rdj qⳍꜥ=s st ḥr-ꜥ.wj


34 Treatment of a woman bed-bound, without standing or 35 moving. You should say to her: “This is a weakness of the womb!”.

Then, you should treat her: let her drink 2 hin of 36 emetic and have her to throw it up at once!


36 šsⳍw s.t ḥr mn wꜥr,tj=sj rdj.ḫr=k r=s 37 stpw n ḥⳍtjw

tḫb m ꜥntjw […] st […] 38 nḏm m jr(j).n=s

ḫ.t nb.t snb pw jr jjjw […] pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s 39 mhwj

n mr[ḥ.t] mⳍ.t jwḥ […]=s 40 rdj ꜥntjw

m […]=s r-sⳍ jrj.t nn


36 Treatment of a woman aching in her legs. You should give to her 37 bandages soaked in resin of myrrh […] it […]. [If … ] 38 sweet, after she has done all that, it means health. If what leaves is […] “This is […] of the womb!”.

Then, you should treat her: 39 fresh rancid oil. Pour over her […]. Place resin of myrrh on her […] after doing this.


40 šsⳍw s.t […] wꜥ 41 wⳍ.t=s wꜥ.t […]w=s

ḏd.ḫr=k r=s qꜥḥw […] pr.t- 42 šnj sꜥⳍm mw.t

n.t gyw […] wⳍ.t 43 mn.t=s st ḥr=s [rdj sdr]=s ḥr=s jr

pẖr r […] 2 44 wšꜥ=s s[…] ḥsb 2 psš m

[…]=s 45 jr wš=s […] m jr(j).n=s ḫ.t nb.t […]=s

šfw.t 46 rdj.ḫr=k ḏbⳍ=k ḥr=[s r gm]m=k st rwḏ(.t) […] ḥr

jd.t […] 47 bṯw pw


40 Treatment of a woman […] her legs and on 41 one side of her […]. You should say to her: “(This is a) bulge […]”.

[Then you should treat her:] beans of white 42 mulberry (morus alba), chaste-tree (vitex agnus castus), and chufa (cyperus esculentus) […] on the side she 43 aches, and let her lay down on her side. If […] circulates […] 2, 44 divided in her […]. 45 If she itches […] it means she did all things […] a swollen, 46 then you should place your finger on it until you find it firm […] on the womb, it is a demon (untreatable).


47 šsⳍw s.t jb.t […] jr(j).ḫr=k r=s 48 ḥsⳍ šbb jmj

ḥsⳍ ꜥwy.t […] 49 ḥr-qd


47 Treatment of a woman thirsting […].

Then, you should treat her: 48 vegetal mucus of a mixed mucilage and vegetal mucus of a fermented mucilage […] 49 completely.

No. XV

49 šsⳍw s.t kns=s šf(w) […] jr(j).ḫr=k r=s 50 wⳍḏw qd (1) nḏ

snꜥꜥ ps ḥr jrt.t mh[r] […] 3 (+ x)


49 Treatment of a woman with a swollen groin […].

Then, you should treat her: 50 (1) qd of malachite powder. Grind, refine and boil in 1 jar of cow milk […] 3 [+ x].


51 šsⳍw s.t ḥr mn ꜥ.t nb.t bⳍbⳍw.w nw

[…]=s km.t 52 ḏd.ḫr=k r=s km.wt pw n jd.t jr(j).ḫr=k r=s

mrḥ.t jmj […] jšd 53 jⳍr.t nqꜥ.wt

jwḥw pr.t-šnj […] nḏ snꜥꜥ

54 ps swrj hrw 3


51 Treatment of a woman aching all her limbs and eye-sockets […] her a disease. Then you should say to her: “This is a disease of the womb!”.

52 Then, you should treat her: oil, fruit of Egyptian balm (balanites aegyptiaca), 53 grapes, ripe figs and beans of white mulberry (morus alba) […]. Grind, refine and 54 boil. Drink for 3 days.


54 šsⳍw s.t snf […] mw.t-rmṯ 55 ḥr mn

ḏⳍḏⳍ=s r(ⳍ)=s ḥn.t n.t d.t=s [ḏd.ḫr]=k r=s […] jr(j).ḫr=k r=s

56 sẖr n=s sⳍṯw rdj tⳍḥ.t ḥr=f n.t [ḥnq.t]-nḏm.t

[…] jr tm hⳍw.n=s ḫ.t nb.t […] 57 r[dj].ḫr=k

bnjw m sš m-gs-ḥr(j) [n] tⳍḥ.t tn

[…](ḥrj) jrj rdj ḥms=s ḥr=s […] 58 jr tm hⳍw [n]=s

ḫ.t nb.t rdj.ḫr=k ps.t […] sqbb rdj swrj=s st

59 jr swt hⳍ n=s s[n]f=s sḥⳍw

r(ⳍ)-pw […]


54 Treatment of a woman bleeding […] mother of persons, 55 aching in her head, mouth and wrists. You should say to her: […].

Then, you should treat her: 56 prepare for her a spot on the ground and place on it the dregs of sweet beer. […]. If nothing leak out from her, 57 you should place date syrup over the top of that as a nest […]. Let her seat on it […]. 58 If nothing leak out from her, you should cook […] let it cool. Make her drink it. 59 If, however, blood or residuals leak from her, [….].



1 k.t r sḥⳍj s.t m hⳍj gs n bⳍd.t n.t jrt.t [ms …]

bⳍd.t […] 2 smn jwḥ m kⳍ.t=s


1 Another one, for unveiling a woman while copulating. Half of a scoop of milk […] scoop […] 2 let it stabilize. Pour it in her womb.


2 sjⳍ m jd.t n.t s.t jr ꜥnn ⳍbd ꜥq […] 3 […] nw

sbn.t […]


2 Noticing a child inside the womb of a woman. If month ends and month starts […] of nursing […] 3 […].

No. XX

3 jr ḥw(j).t m pẖr.t n.t sjwj ḥr-sⳍ fdq ꜥnnw.t [p …]

4 nḏ snꜥꜥ s[ẖⳍk]w m [ḥ]bsw ḥr ḥsⳍ-ꜥwy.t

jwḥ m hⳍyw […] 5 snṯr mrḥ.t [bnj]w

ḥnq.t nḏm.t rdj m-ẖnw šdj m tkⳍw kⳍp.ḫr[=k …]

6 m nḏm-r(ⳍ)


3 If a woman was stricken by some prescription for pregnancy. After severing the fruit of an Onnw-tree, […] 4 Grind and refine, by filtering with a clothing with fermented vegetal mucus. Bath with waves […]. 5 Incense, new oil, date syrup and sweet beer. Give it to a burning vessel. Then, you should burn […] 6 as a sweetener of the mouth.


6 tm […] ḥs msḥ wgp ḥr ḥsⳍ ꜥwy.t

tḫb […]


6 For preventing […]. Crocodile dung. Pound it with fermented vegetal mucus, immersed (in) […].


7 k.t pẖr.t hnw [n] bj.t jwḥ [m] kⳍ.t=s jr(j).t nn ḥr sḥm

n ḥsmn


7 Another prescription: (1) hin of honey. Pour it into her vulva. This is to be done together with a natron contraceptive.


k.t […] 8 ḥr ḥsⳍ ꜥwy.t [j]wḥ m kⳍ.t=s


Another one […]. 8 with fermented vegetal mucus. Sprinkle inside her vulva.


8 dr tjⳍw pw n jd.t wḏꜥ n bnjw ḥr […] 9 qnqn

smnḫ ḥr (sic) ḥnq.t nḏm.t rdj ḥms(j)=s ḥr=s wpw mn.t(j)=sj


8 This is for removing muscular pains of the womb. Date palm pulp with […]. 9 Crush it and reduce it in sweet beer. Let her sit on it with her legs apart.


9 šsⳍw s.t tⳍw […] 10 jw ḏⳍy(.t) ḫpr-wr ẖⳍ

ḥr jⳍb n ms(j)-tⳍ š jwḥ fdq […] 11 dwⳍ.t 4 rdj.ḫr=k

ḥms=s ḥr mw n š rdj [j …]


9 Treatment of a woman burning (with fever) […], 10 her eyes are harmed. Wild carrot. Spread on the left side of the “msta” (birth brick?) with spring water. Sprinkle and sever […]. 11 4 mornings. Then, you should let her siting on the water of […] spring water. Give […].


12 sjⳍ ntt r jwj r ntt nn jwr [jr(j)].ḫr=k mrḥ.t

mⳍ.t ḥr […] 13 […].ḫr=k sj jr gm(j) mtjw n qⳍb.t=s

ḫⳍšⳍ ḏd.ḫr=k r=s ms(j).t pw

14 jr gm(j)=k [s]t knkn ḏd.ḫr=k r=s jw=s r ms(j).t wḏf jr

swt gm(j) sj mj jrn[…]


12 Determining a woman who shall conceive from one who shall not. You should prepare: new fat and […]. 13 Then, you should […]. If the muscles of her breasts are showing some bulging, you should say to her: “This is pregnancy!”. 14 If you find it in a normal state, you should say that she will give birth late. However, if you find her something like […].


15 ky-sp rdj.ḫr=k ḥms=s ḥr sⳍṯw sẖr m tⳍḥ.t n.t ḥnq.t

nḏm.t rdj dqⳍ […] bnjw […] 16 qjs jw=s r ms(j).t jr

grt ṯnw qjs nb ntj r pr(j).t m r(ⳍ)=s ṯnw

ms(j) […] 17 [jr] gr.t tm=s qjs nn ms(j)=s r nḥḥ


15 Another time. You should let her siting on the ground prepared with dregs of sweet beer. Put some fruit […] date syrup […]. 16 vomits, she will give birth. Indeed, every time some vomit leaves her mouth it means a birth. 17 However, if there is no vomit at all she will never give birth.


17 ky-sp rdj.ḫr=k ṯⳍ n ḥḏw r(ⳍ) m ẖ.t […]=f jm […]

18 s[…] gmy=k sw jm=f ḏd.ḫr=k r=s jw=s r ms(j).t

jr tm=k gm(y=k) […] ḫn.t=s […]19 nn [ms(j)=s r nḥḥ]


17 Another time. You should give an onion bulb on the mouth (entrance) of her belly […] it […] there. 18 […]. (If) you find in it, then you should say to her that she will give birth. If you do not find […] her face […] 19 she will never give birth.


19 ky-sp nḏr.ḫr=k r=s ḥr šsp=s ḥn.t-dbꜥ=k ḥr-ḥrjw mnjⳍ=s […] (n)hq […]

20 j[r …] tm nhq nn ms(j)=s r nḥḥ


19 Another time. You should press her hand with the tip of your finger on her point of pressure. […]. Pain […]. 20 If […] there is no pain, she will never give birth.


20 ky-sp bḥs pwy n Ḥr […] 21 […] jw=j ḥr […] Ḥr ṯs-pẖr(w)

hⳍ(j)=k r bw n […]=k jm ḏ r(ⳍ) […] 22 […] jr

hⳍ(j) m šr.t=s jw=s r ms(j).t jr hⳍ(j) m kⳍ.t=s jw=s r ms(j).t jr

gr.t […] 23 […]=s r nḥḥ


20 Another time. Oh that calf of Horus! […] 21 that I am with […] Horus and vice-versa. Go down to the place which you […]. The formula to be said is: […] 22 […]. If it comes down from her nostril, she will give birth. However, if it comes down from her vulva, so […] 23 […] she will never (give birth).


23 ky-sp jr mⳍⳍ=k ḥr=s wⳍḏ m wⳍḏ swt gmy=k ḫ.t ḥr=s

mj […] 24 […]=j jr gr.t mⳍ.n=k ḫ.t ḥr nn

ms(j)=s r nḥḥ


23 Another time. If you see her face fresh with brilliance, but find something on her like […] 24 […]. If you find anything on her eyes, she will never give birth


24 sjⳍ ntt jw(y.t) […] 25 […] mjtt pfⳍ ḏbꜥ ḥr mnjⳍ


24 Determining the one who will conceive […] 25 […] like that of the finger on the pressure point.


25 tm rdj tjⳍ s.t […] jwy.t nḏ m […] 26 […]

[…]=s r nḥḏ.t=sj hrw n ms(j)=s dr tjⳍw [pw]

šs-mⳍꜥ ḥḥ n (sp)


25 Preventing contractions in the chewing muscles of a woman. […]. Cowpea (vigna unguiculata). Grind it with […] 26 […] for her teeth the day she gives birth will drive away the pain on her chewing muscles. This is something really good, (tested) a million (times).


27 […] s.t mwy.t m s.t qsn.t jr jw(j).t mwy(.t) j[…] 28 […].ḫr

sjⳍ=s sj wnn=s m mtt r nḥḥ


27 […] a woman with local difficulty while urinating. If the urine comes out […] 28 […] she observes it, she will be that way for ever.


4. Some final remarks

The ancient Egyptian medical papyri are an important source to understand the Egyptian approach to health treatment. Ancient Egyptian therapeutics were as equally familiar with pharmacy as they were with medicine and incantations. Thanks to the medical papyri, we know details about many of their treatments and prescriptions for diseases. They call for the treatment of many disorders and the use of a variety of substances, plant, animal and mineral.

However, the essential nature of Egyptian healing is deep-seated on religious notions. Hence, magical practices are wholly integrated with empiric-rational approaches to form an integrated but multi-faceted medical therapy.

Traditionally, Egyptology reproduces ideological prejudices regarding the ancient Egyptian medicine empiricism. All supernatural elements are normally treated as mere superstition or, in the best cases, a tool for some placebo effect. On the other hand, though a neurolinguistic approach it becomes clear how intimate was the relation between physical health and spiritual order (in opposition to the cosmic forces of chaos).

One of the main problems on dealing with medical papyri is that they usually do not check or advance with the study of the provided vocabulary. An interesting point for the benefit of Egyptology would be the review of all medical papyri in search of better information about their technical vocabulary, pharmacopoeia, medical substances, and the like.

Such study also considers the proposition of an ontology and semantic analysis. Per definition, ontology, describes the concepts of medical terminologies, practices, and the relation between them, thus, enabling the sharing of medical knowledge. Ontology-based analyses are associated with a tool to represent medical knowledge, thus relying more on the computer science-based understanding of medical terms. This approach is useful for a data entry system, in which the users merely need to browse the hierarchy and select relevant terms.

The language (logos) is the key for a culture’s mentality (nous). Thus, it is impossible to deal with language without analysing the thought it’s portraying. A Semantic approach aims for the real-world scenario of dealing with grammatically complex terms, which are documented in the ancient Egyptian native language.

The essential nature of Egyptian healing links religious notions and so-called magical practices wholly integrated with empiric-rational approaches to form an integrated but multi-faceted therapeutic.

There are three points to be debated by our source’ analysis. Firstly, the usage of a noun, usually translated as “demon”, as a synonym for incurable diseases. In case the word is taken literally, then the treatment would be incomplete. Since a “demon” could have been identified and/or exorcized, the therapeutics rather closed the case and move on. Thus, it is most likely the term is here employed as a “harmless” technical term for an untreatable condition.

Secondly, there is a verb, which is synonym with “exorcizing” (evil spirits), although it is here employed in the technical sense of dismissing pain and the expelling of any material residuals from the patient’s uterus. By the second time, the term assumes a non-magical usage as a technical jargon. Then, the materia prima identifies a magical ingredient: malachite powder. This ingredient would act via the principle of sympatheia, as it would restore one’s health, thanks to a magical pun (rebus) relating malachite, the green colour, and the Egyptian word for “vigor” and “freshness”.

Finally, another case shows a fragment of a prayer to Horus in its therapeutics; listed as part of the recommended treatment.

During the preparation of this conclusion, our first impulse was to reduce the words “demon” and “to exorcize” as metaphors, embedded by something as an Ancient Egyptian medical terminology. Then, oppose them to the hymn to Horus and the malachite powder as “magical” elements. However, that would just replicate our prejudice against Egyptian medicine, as we would reproduce the labels of “natural” and “supernatural” as necessary and antagonist categories.

The lack of exorcisms, indexes of demons and magical ingredients (such as amulets) does not “purge” the papyrus from its divine, mythical and magical aspects. The concept of cure is different from the semantic field of the word cure. The cure also performs a transcendent effect, for it changes the patient’s destiny. Such effect presupposes some previous formal divine consent.

Therefore, the therapeutics consists of attempts to change the individual destiny. Thus, the transcendent world was unequivocally behind the success or failure of any medical treatment.



This book had the support of CHAM (NOVA FCSH/UAc), through the strategic project sponsored by FCT (UIDB/04666/2020).


Further reading

  • Frandsen, Paul John. “The Menstrual “Taboo” in Ancient Egypt.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 66, no. 2 (2007): 81 – 106.

  • Győry, H. “Interaction of Magic and Science in Ancient Egyptian Medicine” in Zahi Hawass, ed. Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century, Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists Cairo 2000, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2003, pp. 276 – 83.

  • Györy, H. ‘Some aspects of magic in ancient Egyptian medicine’ in P. Kousoulis (Ed.) Ancient Egyptian Demonology –Studies on the Boundaries between the Demonic and the Divine in Egyptian Magic, Leuven: Peeters, 2011, pp. 151 – 167.

  • Johansson, T. The significance of believing in healing – on the therapeutic value of spoken words in ancient Egyptian medical papyri. University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för arkeologi och antik história, 2019.

  • Kousoulis, P. I. M. “Dead entities in living bodies: The demonic influence of the dead in the medical texts” In J.-Cl. Goyon, C. Gardin (Eds.) Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists – Actes Du Neuvième Congrès International Des Égyptologues. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2007, pp. 1043 – 1050.

  • Leitz C. P. D.Magical and medical papyri of the New Kingdom. London: British Museum Press for the Trustees of the British Museum, 1999.

  • Buchheim, L. “Abortus, Konzeptionsverhütung und Menschwerdung im alten Ägypten” In Deutsche Ärzteblatt--Ärztliche Mitteilungen 61, 45 (1964): 2371 – 2375.

  • Haimov-Kochman, R. “Reproduction concepts and practices in ancient Egypt mirrored by modern medicine” in European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Volume 123, ISSUE 1 (2005): 3 – 8.

  • Morice, P.; Josset, P.; Colau, J.-C., “Gynécologie et obstétrique dans l’ancienne Egypte”, in Journal de Gynécologie obstétriquee et Biologie de la reproduction, vol.23-2 (1994): 131 – 136.

  • Morthon, R.S. “Sexual attitudes, preferences and infections in ancient Egypt” in Genitourin Med. (1995) 71: 180 – 186.

  • Nelson, G. S. “Ancient Egyptian obstetrics and gynecology” in Proceedings of the 10th Annual History of Medicine, Calgary: The University of Calgary, 2001.

  • O’Dowd, M. J.; Philipp, E. E. The History of Obstetrics and Gynecology. New York: Parthenon Publishing Group, 1994.

  • Philippe, M., La gynécologie et l'obstétrique en Egypte pharaonique, thèse de docteur en médecine, Paris V, 1992.

  • Richard, M. – C. Pharmacognosie et Traitements Gynecologiques en Egypte Ancienne. Thèse d’Exercice pour le Diplôme d’Etat de Docteur en Pharmaciesoutenueà l’Université François Rabelais/UFR des Sciences Pharmaceutiques de Tours, 2014.

  • Sullivan, R. “Divine and rational: the reproductive health of women in ancient Egypt” in Surv. Obstet. Gynecol. 52 (1997): 635 – 642

  • Vernus, P., “Une théorie étiologique de la médecine égyptienne: les souffles vecteurs de maladie, in Revue d’Egyptologie, vol.34 (1982-1983): 121 – 125.

  • Von Lieven A.; Quack, J. F. “ Ist Liebe eine Frauenkrankheit? Papyrus Berlin P 13602, ein gynäkomagische Handbuch ” in Martin, C. J.; Hoogendijk, F. A. J.; van Heel, K. D. Hieratic, Demotic and Greek Studies and Text Editions Of making many Books There is no End: Festschrif in Honour of Sven P Vleeming P.L. Bat 34, Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2018, 257-274.

  • Walker, J. “The place of magic in the practice of medicine in ancient Egypt” In Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology 1 (1990): 85 – 95.




wꜥ.t – one (feminine)
snw – second
ḥḥ - a million
gs ½ (half)
ḥsb – hesb (20, later, 16 hekat)
qd – (¼)3 de hekat = 1/64 hekat
hnw – hin (1/10 hekat)
Generic measurements
bⳍd.t - spoon
mh[r] – jar
ⳍ -
ⳍbd – month
ⳍmmw – anemia
ⳍḥ - porridge
ⳍšr – roast
J –
=j – suffix pronoun: I, my
jⳍb – left hand/side
jⳍr.t – grape
jꜥ(j) – to wash; to clean
jjjw – to leave
jw – Subordination marker
jw(j).t – to come
jwḥ - to hydrate, to wet
jwr(j) – to conceive, to be impregned
jwry.t – beans, cowpea (vigna unguiculata)
jwḥw – fruit
jbḥ.w – teeth
jb.t – to be thirsty
jm – there
jmj – together with – in between (of two referential objects)
.jn – sequential verbal affix: “after x”
jns.t – tight
jr – if, when, in case of
jrj – on that regard, about that, that
jr(j) – to do, to deal, to treat
jr(j) m ḫtjw wꜥ.t – to make a sole masse (to mix, to homogenize) – eyes (dual)
jrṯ.t – (cow) milk
jšd – Egyptian balm (balanites aegyptiaca)
jd.t - womb
ꜥ -
ꜥⳍ - donkey, ass
ꜥ.wt – arms, members, limbs
ꜥwy.t – fermented mucilage
ꜥmꜥm – to lubricate, to rub
mꜥ.t – mud
ꜥnn – to leave
ꜥnnw.t – fruit of the Onenu-tree
ꜥntjw – resin of myrrh
ꜥq – to enter
W –
wⳍbw n – the root of her tights (perineum?)
wⳍ.t – lateral; side
wⳍḏ - green, fresh, vigor, vitality, freshness
wⳍḏw – malachite powder
wꜥ – legs
wꜥḥ - chufa (cyperus esculentus)
wpw – to separate
wnm – to eat, to consume
wnn – to exist
wrš – to spend the day
wš – to scratch
wšꜥ - to chew
wšꜥw – to feed, to devour (for animals)
wgp – to smash, to triturate
wḏꜥ - pulp of dates
wḏf – to hesitate, to be late
B –
bⳍbⳍ.w – cavities
bw – local
bnjw – date syrup
bḥs - calf
bṯw – evil doer (demon); untreatable disease
P –
pw – demonstrative pronoun: this (is); copula particle
pwy – demonstrative pronoun: this (is) vocative
pf – that
pr(j).t – (to) exit
pr[.t]-šnj – white mulberry (morus alba)
pḥ(.wj) – tail, back, back side
pẖr – circular
pẖr.t – prescription, medication
ps – to heat, to boil, to cook
psš – to divide
ptr – what (is)
F –
=f – suffix pronoun: he, his
fdq – to sever
M –
m - in, with, as, like, from
m-ḫ.t – after
m-ẖnw – inside
m-gs-ḥr(j) – upside
mⳍⳍ -to see
mⳍw.t – new, recent
mj – like, as
mjtt, mtt – the same way, similar, likewise, just like that, the same as
mjs.t – liver
mw – water
mwy.t – urine, to urinate
mwy.t m s.t qsn.t – to urinate with local pain or difficulty
mw.t – mother
mw.t-rmṯ - mother of persons (twins?)
mw.t – tuberculum
mn – pain, aching, suffering
mn – to situate
mnjⳍ - point of pulse
mr – pain
mr.t – to be in love with a bed (to be bedridden)
mrḥ.t – oil, fat, ointment, unguent
mrḥ.t-mⳍw.t – new oil
mhwj – rancid oil
mn.t(j) – upper tights
msḥ - crocodile
ms(j).t – to give birth
ms(j).t(j)=sj – the birth of two children (dual)
ms(j)-tⳍ - birth-earth (?)
mtjw – tendon, muscle
mdw.t - what is said
N –
n – of (masculine or common); .n - verbal affix (indirect conjugation)
n-mjtt – according to, the same as, like
n(j) – negative particle
n.t – of (feminine)
nw – of (plural)
nw – time, moment
nb – substantive: lord, owner; adjective: all, entire, each, any
nb.t – substantive: lady, owner; adjective: all, entire, each, any
nmsw – effusion
nn – this, those, these
nn – negative particle
nrw – tremor; convulsion
nhq – pain
nḥb.t - throat, neck
nḥḏ.t – tooth
nqꜥ.wt – ripe figs
nḏm-r(ⳍ) – sweetener of the mouth (breath candy)
ntj – which, that, who (masculine)
ntt - which, that, who (feminine)
nḏ - to grind
nḏm – sweet
nḏr – to press, to force
R –
r – for, to, than
r-nḥḥ - forever, eternally (in negative sentences, never)
r-sⳍ - after
r(ⳍ) – mouth
rwḏ(.t) – rigid; firm; hard
rḫ[.t] – to know, to be able to
rdj – to give, to allow, to apply (medicine)
rd.wj – feet
H –
hⳍ(j) – to go down, to move, to come
hⳍj – to copulate
hⳍw – to go out
hⳍyw – waves
hrw – day (24 hours)
Ḥ -
ḥⳍtjw – bandages
ḥw(j).t – to be beaten
[ḥ]bsw – tissue
ḥms - to sit
ḥnq.t – beer
ḥnq.t n ḏⳍḏⳍ.t – fermented beer
[ḥnq.t]-nḏm.t - sweet beer
ḥn.t-end, extremity, edge
ḥn.t-dbꜥ - finger point
Ḥr – Horus
ḥr – on, over, about, that, which, whose
ḥr-ꜥ.wj – immediately
ḥr-qd – completely
ḥr-sⳍ - after
ḥqr.t – fasting
ḥs – excrement
ḥsⳍ - vegetal mucus
ḥsⳍ-ꜥwy.t – fermented vegetal mucus
ḥsmn – natron
Ḫ -
ḫⳍꜥw – excretion
ḫⳍwj – emetic
ḫⳍšⳍ - bulging
ḫp(j) – to deliver, to menstruate
ḫpr – to manifest
ḫpr-wr – wild carrot (daucus carota)
ḫpd.w(j) – buttocks
.ḫr – verbal sequential affix: “and then x”
ḫ.t – something, thing.
ḫ.t nb.t – anything, everything
ḫtjw - mass
ẖⳍ - to pulverize
ẖⳍ[b]w – bellybutton
ẖ.t – belly, body
S –
=s – suffix pronoun: she, her
=sj – suffix pronoun: she, her (dual)
st – it, this, that
sw – he, him
sⳍṯw – ground, floor
sjⳍ - to distinguish, to notice
sjwj – pregnancy
swrj – to drink
swt – in fact, really, after, then
sꜥⳍ - to dilatate
sꜥⳍm – vitex (vitex agnus castus)
sbn.t – to nurse, breastfeeding
sn[ꜥꜥ]w – to reduce, to dilute
snb – health
snb.t – to be healthy
smn – to stabilize
smnḫ - to reduce
snf - blood
snṯr - incense
srf – to heat, to warm
sḥⳍj – to reveal, to expose
sḥⳍw – residual(s)
sḥm – contraceptive
s[ẖⳍk]w – to filter
sẖr – to clean, to prepare
ssn.t – to cause an odor
sš – nest
, sqbb – to cool down
s.t - woman
s.t-tⳍw - woman with fever
s.t - local
s.t-qsn.t – local difficulty
stpw - bandage
[sd]ⳍ.t – to move
sḏm.wj - ears
sḏm – to hear, to listen
sḏr.t – to be laying down
Š –
š – fountain
šⳍšⳍ - fruit
š bb – mixed mucilage
šm.t – to walk, to stroll
šfw.t – swollen
šr.t – nostrill,
šs-mⳍꜥ - something really good (effective)
šsⳍw – treatment, diagnostic, examine
šsp – palm of hand
šdj – vessel, container
šdj m tkⳍw – burning vessel (brasier, ashtray, incensory)
Q –
qⳍꜥ - vomit
qⳍb.t – breast
qjs (= qⳍs) – to vomit, to puke
qꜥḥw – arching
qmⳍy – to engender, to create
qnqn – to triturate
qsn.t – ill-feeling; difficulty (symptomatic)
qd – to assure; to grant
K –
kⳍp – to fumigate
kⳍ.t – vulva
km.t – illness, disease
knkn – normality, normal estate
kns – groin
ky - (an)other (masculine)
ky-sp - another time
k.t – (an)other (feminine)
G –
gⳍ.t – privation, deficiency, lacking
gyw – chufa (cyperus esculentus)
gm(j) – to find
gnnw – fat from the leg of a goose
grt – in fact, really
T –
tⳍ - land
tⳍw – to heat
tⳍḥ.t – residual, dregs
tjⳍw – painful muscular contractions, trismus,
tfⳍ - that
tm – negative verb (to prevent, not to do)
tḫb – wet, soggy
Ṯ -
ṯⳍ - bulb
ṯⳍ n ḥḏw – onion bulb
ṯnw – each (each time x happens…then each time y results)
ṯs-pẖr(w) – vice-versa (circular link)
D –
dwⳍ.t – early morning
dwn – to stand
dr – to keep away, to exorcise, to expel
dqⳍ (= dqr) – fruit
d.t – hand
Ḏ -
ḏⳍy(.t) – wound
ḏⳍdy.t – fermented/burning beer
ḏⳍḏⳍw – special pot to prepare medicines
ḏⳍḏⳍ.t – around
ḏbꜥ - finger
ḏⳍḏⳍ - top, head
ḏd - to say, to tell


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  • The term Kahun was the name given by Petrie to the site of the city of Lahun, which, under the reign of Amenemhat III and his successors, would have been a very prosperous city.
  • Nunn, 1996, p. 34.
  • The texts were published in facsimile, with hieroglyphic transcription and translation into English by Griffith. CF. Griffith, F. Ll. (1898). The Petrie Papyri: Hieratic Papyri from Kahun and Gurob. London: Bernard Quaritch, p. 5–11 and pl. V-VI.
  • A note on the reverse of the gynaecological papyrus is dated to the year 29 of Amenemhat III, Ibidem.
  • In paragraph 30. The works on medicine in Ancient Egypt refer to the belief in a holistic dimension of life, in which the disease is understood, naturally, as a disturbance of an inner order that is reflected, a posteriori, physically [3]. Hence, the use of magical practices that could help harmonizes the patient.
  • The term materia medica was first used by Dioscorides in De Materia Medica (1st century CE) and used ever since. However, since the Kahun papyrus predates Dioscorides, this work was encouraged to present another term for describing pharmaceutics, standing for the therapeutic features of any material used for treatment.

Written By

Helena Trindade Lopes and Ronaldo G. Gurgel Pereira

Reviewed: April 27th, 2021 Published: October 13th, 2021