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Egyptian Mummies Reveal Details Of Diet And Medicine In Ancient Egypt
By Diana Clarke

We have learned much about Egypt from paintings, hieroglyphics and other artifacts. Most importantly, we have learned about the diet and medicine in ancient Egypt by performing tests on mummies with CT scans, MRI, X-rays, and endoscopes.

Mummification first came into practice in 2600 BCE. Ancient Egyptians mummified their citizens so that the soul could return to the body. Before mummification, the brain and organs were removed and placed in jars to accompany the mummy in the tomb. But the heart remained, believed to be the seat of emotions and intelligence.

Mummies can reveal much about the age and health status of ancient Egyptians.

For instance, teeth tell us about their age, diet and health care. They had dental caries, but it wasn't as prevalent as today because they ate less sugary foods. Gum disease existed and was evident in the existence of tartar or calculus on the mummy's teeth. Teeth that were worn down were subject to infections. The sand of the desert that was ingested with food had abraded the teeth

Parasites were rampant in Ancient Egypt and discovered in mummies. Members of the agrarian civilization spent time in the water to perform agricultural tasks. While doing so, they absorbed parasites, such as Guineas worms, through the skin. And they drank contaminated water and food, ingesting parasites, such as trichinella.

Some other health problems discovered in mummified remains are broken bones, silicosis from ingested desert sand and diseases, such as Tuberculosis.

Source: Diet, Doctors and Death: Health in Ancient Egypt, Jean DeMouthe and MS710 Museum Education students, San Francisco State University, 2007.

Presentation at the Sutro Egyptian Museum, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA.

Local Egyptian museum:

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
1342 Naglee Avenue San Jose
CA 95191
Diana Clarke is a certificated teacher and health educator. Her articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News. Visit her website at

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