EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader

Find Us

ADVERTISEMENT

Ancient Egyptians may have tried to treat cancer 4,000 years ago

The 4,000-year-old skull bears traces of what could be the earliest cancer treatment ever.
The 4,000-year-old skull bears traces of what could be the earliest cancer treatment ever. Copyright Tondini, Isidro, Camarós, 2024
Copyright Tondini, Isidro, Camarós, 2024
By Euronews
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Thin cuts in a skull from Ancient Egypt shed light on what could be the earliest known attempt to treat cancer

ADVERTISEMENT

Two skulls dating from Ancient Egypt and stored at the University of Cambridge might bear the earliest known signs of cancer treatment.

Thin cuts on one of the remains dating about 4,000 years could either be signs of surgery to remove cancer or a “postmortem medical exploration”, according to a new study published in the science journal Frontiers in Medicine.

The skull is thought to have belonged to a 30 to 35-year-old man living between 2,686 and 2,345 BCE, around the same time the Great Pyramid of Giza was built.

The second remains are dated between 664 and 343 BCE and belonged to a woman over 50 who survived a skull fracture and sustained a tumour. Scientists included the skull in their study as it testified to the level of care Egyptians were capable of offering to those injured or sick.

The team discovered the cut marks and analysed the second skull using high-resolution 3D microscopy.

The skull is thought to have belonged to a man living around the same time the Great Pyramid of Giza was built.
The skull is thought to have belonged to a man living around the same time the Great Pyramid of Giza was built.Tondini, Isidro, Camarós, 2024

“The confrontation of two potential managements represented by two different types of lesions represent (...) a milestone in the history of medicine,” wrote authors Tatiana Tondini, Albert Isidro and Edgard Camarós.

Ancient Egypt has one of the “most advanced medical knowledge bases” in Antiquity, with well-preserved human remains and papyrus offering a glimpse into healthcare practices of the time.

Evidence of protheses, dental filling and healed fractures have previously been found by scientists.

Researchers also believe that ancient Egyptian medicine was “advanced enough to describe, classify and successfully treat specific diseases and traumatic injuries, including bone trauma”.

Cancer has previously been found in human remains, with the oldest case dating back 1.7 million years, but this analysis casts a new light on the condition.

According to the authors, these findings reinforce the idea that “cancer was much more prevalent than previously assumed”.

Still, their research calls for caution as they highlight that their work relies on “incomplete skeletal remains,” only includes two individuals, and doesn’t use molecular analysis.

Share this articleComments

You might also like