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Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus

The Smith Papyrus was written in Egyptian hieratic script around the 17th century BCE but probably based on material from a thousand years earlier. This collaborative online representation features an important new translation by James P. Allen, formerly of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and high-resolution scans lent by the scroll's owner, the New York Academy of Medicine.

 "We are delighted to collaborate with NLM in bringing the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus to a much wider audience and the use of interactive technology will allow researchers and the public to explore the document more deeply," said Academy President Jo Ivey Boufford, MD.

"The Smith Papyrus is extremely important," added NLM Director Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD, "because it showed for the first time that Egyptians had a scientific understanding of traumatic injuries based on observable anatomy rather than relying on magic or potions."

The text is a treatise on trauma surgery and consists of 48 cases dealing with wounds and trauma. Each case is laid out using a carefully prescribed formula: a description of the injury; diagnosis; prognosis; treatment; and further explanations of the case, which resemble footnotes.

"This papyrus is unlike most other medical papyri in that it is chiefly rational and does not usually bring the supernatural into the explanations or treatments for injuries-for instance, there is only one incantation," said Michael North, curator of the project and of rare books in the Library's History of Medicine Division. 

An example of ancient knowledge from Tama' Re (Ancient Africa).