Science and Magic in Ancient Egypt

The Lost Scroll of the Physician Blog

Science and Magic in Ancient Egypt

Posted on June 25 by Alisha Sevigny in Fiction, Kids, Recent Releases
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The Lost Scroll of the Physician centers around a mysterious scroll which happens to be a real-life document. The Edwin Smith Medical Papyrus is the oldest manual of medical surgery that we have ever found and is dated to the Second Intermediate Period, an era in history that we’ve only just begun to learn more about. I’ve always been fascinated by civilizations’ lost pockets of time and once I started learning more about this enigmatic blip in Ancient Egypt’s expansive past, the more drawn in I became.

The manuscript itself is impressive and lauded for its rational and scientific approach to surgery and holds the first ever reference to the brain. It outlines the nature of the injury and states how the physician should deal with each case as well as offers a prognosis. Egyptian doctors at this time would state one of three things depending on the nature and expected outcome of the wound or illness:

This is an ailment I will treat.

This is an ailment with which I will contend.

This is an ailment I cannot treat.

Egyptian doctors were renowned throughout the lands and incredibly advanced in medicine, usually sharing the role of priest. Alongside their scientific and rational healing, spells were also said, incantations invoked, and prayers and offerings made to the gods. This complimentary healing, while perhaps dismissed by some today, may also have had real benefits, fitting in with our modern-day holistic treatments, which include things not always backed by science but by belief. The human mind is an incredibly complex and powerful thing. Things like meditation, reiki, crystals, energy healing and body work, which have up until recently existed on the fringes of western medicine, are becoming more mainstream as recognition of the mind-body connection gains more prominence in our society.

Sesha, the character around whom the book centres, is the daughter of the royal physician to the Pharaoh, a doctor in training herself (women had more rights in Ancient Egypt than throughout most of history), and views science and magic as different facets of the same jewel. Having my characters exploring this dichotomy and finding the places where they intersect is just one of the many themes featured in the SECRETS OF THE SANDS series.

We can learn so much by researching and writing about our ancient past, while being mindful of the modern and cultural lenses through which we view it. It is this research, these details, that grounds the reader in an immersive adventure in a time and place different from their own; magic blossoming from the science of language itself.



Pages from the Edwin Smith Papyrus

Image: Pages from the Edwin Smith Papyrus


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Alisha Sevigny

Posted by Kendra on April 30, 2019
Alisha Sevigny photo

Alisha Sevigny

Alisha Sevigny is the author of The Lost Scroll of the Physician, the first book in the Secrets of the Sands series, and the acclaimed young adult novels Summer Constellations and Kissing Frogs. She lives in Toronto.