Friday, July 7, 2023

The Brooklyn Papyrus (47.218.48 and 47.218.85) and its snakebite treatments

Golding, Wendy Rebecca Jennifer
The Brooklyn Papyrus (47.218.48 and 47.218.85) is the handbook of the Priests of Serqet who were called upon to treat snakebite victims in ancient Egypt. The first part of the Brooklyn Papyrus describes various snakes encountered by the ancient Egyptians, and the effects of the bites of these snakes. The second part of the Papyrus contains the numerous treatments that were used to treat the snakebite victims. The primary question of the thesis is to address how the ancient Egyptians treated snakebite victims; and if it is possible to identify the snakes that they encountered, as treatment often hinges on this identification. Additional questions are addressed, namely: What is the Brooklyn Papyrus exactly and what is its background? How does the Brooklyn Papyrus compare to the well-known ancient Egyptian medical papyri? How does the snakebite treatment of the ancient Egyptians compare to that of today’s treatment protocol? In order to answer these questions, this thesis provides my transliteration of the hieroglyphic writing into Latin script, and my translation into English, based on the hieratic to hieroglyphic transliteration done by Serge Sauneron in the late 1960s, and published in 1989 as Un Traité Egyptien d’Ophiologie. The primary aim of this thesis is to provide a transliteration and full English translation of the Brooklyn Papyrus, as none is currently available. It is clear that from the translation that one can discover exactly how snakebite was treated in ancient Egypt: what medicinal ingredients were used and how the patient was treated. Furthermore, from the text describing the snakes and the effects of their bites, one can indeed attempt to identify the species of snakes. It is also apparent from the Brooklyn Papyrus that the ancient Egyptians did recognise and accurately describe many effects of snakebite on the human body, as well as the different types of bite wounds: and they also understood the importance of being able to identify a species of snake as it very often impacted on the treatment to be prescribed—exactly as snakebite treatment is considered in medicine today


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