Medicine in ancient Egypt was surprisingly well-advanced. The Greeks were the first to recog-nise this, returning home with many ancient Egyptian prognoses and prescriptions. However, the limits of ancient medical science sometimes forced the Egyptian practitioners to develop explanations based on principles having nothing to do with real science, such as a test using garlic to predict whether or not a pregnant woman would have complications during her delivery.
Egyptian doctors saw the heart as the centre of a system of 46 tubes or ‘channels’ which included veins, intestines and other vessels, although they did not realise these tubes had different functions within the body. They observed that blocked irrigation channels could damage fields of crops, and so believed that blocked channels within the body (caused by gods, demons or spirits) could similarly cause damage, including problems in the delivery of a baby. For this reason, doctors developed a series of examinations to check pregnant women for anomalies or obstructions in their channels.
An ancient test
We are fortunate that several medical papyri from ancient Egypt have survived; most are collections of potions, medications, tests and other prognoses from diverse specialists which were compiled in the same p