Demotic Medical Papyri in Denmark

Amber Jacob

Amber Jacob

Mødedato: Torsdag 2.6 2022 Kl. 17.30 – døren låses 17.20!

Antikmuseet på Aarhus Universitet,
Victor Albecksvej, Århus C, bygning 1414

Demotic Medical Papyri in Denmark: Insights into Medical Practice in Graeco-Roman Egypt, v. Amber Jacob, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NY

This paper will present an overview of an unpublished corpus of Demotic medical texts currently being edited for publication by the author. The corpus comprises the largest collection worldwide of Egyptian medical texts from the Graeco-Roman period, deriving from the well-documented Tebtunis Temple Library in the Fayum Oasis.

The majority of this material is held in the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection at the University of Copenhagen, with a smaller number of fragments in other collections. Having a known archaeological context for these texts is in itself unique amongst medical papyri from Egypt, and the corpus affords opportunities for research goals in largely unexplored avenues of ancient medicine.

For instance, Tebtunis has additionally yielded around thirteen Greek medical papyri, some of which were likely copied by the same bilingual Egyptian scribes responsible for the Demotic texts. The corpus thus provides an unprecedented opportunity for a case-study in the cross-cultural exchange of medical knowledge in antiquity. Further, the corpus reveals insights into previously unrecognized features of Egyptian medicine, including the first discovered Egyptian treatise on nephrology, the branch of medicine concerning the kidneys.

Dermatological treatises reveal a point of common concern between the Demotic and Greek texts and form connections with other papyri from the library concerning cult-hierarchy. The proctological material, however, represents a distinctly Egyptian tradition. The manuscripts also contain a trove of information on ancient pharmacy and botany. This paper will provide an overview of the main medical themes and methods of the texts while also seeking to illuminate their professional, social context and the manuscript tradition in which they were written.