Thursday, April 13, 2017

K for King's Associate, Pesehet: Female Scientists Before Our Time


Ancient Egyptian women have a long history in the medical profession, as far back as the Early Dynastic Period  (3150-2613 BC). Some believe a woman (name unknown) may have run a medical school in Sais in lower Egypt in 3000 BC.  

There was good reason a Greek woman named Agnodice (see A post) traveled to Alexandria in 300 BC to study medicine and then had to hide her profession back at home in Athens by wearing men's clothing. She knew where to get medical training, but had no idea what would happen when she returned home to practice her new profession (or so the story goes).


Pesehet was one of the earliest known women to practice medicine in Egypt. Evacuation of a tomb at Giza revealed that she had been a physician. A monument had been dedicated to her and among the titles identifying her was “Lady Overseer of the Female Physicians.” Pesehet was a physician during the 4th Dynasty and the building of the great pyramids (c. 2500 BC). Pesehet may even have taught at the temple school in Sais.



Great Pyramid at Giza
It's hard to say whether she is remembered more as a teacher or a physician. Pesehet was the “King’s associate,” or “King’s acquaintance,” suggesting she may have been the king’s personal physician.


Egyptian woman giving birth
It’s also mentioned that Pesehet had trained midwives, but some question whether she had trained ‘midwives’ or ‘female physicians’, as there is no ancient Egyptian word for midwifery. It’s interesting though that the Hebrew Bible may be enough clarification in this case, although not officially a historical source. In Exodus (1:16) we read: “And he (i.e., the king of Egypt) said: ‘When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women and see them upon the stools….”

Isn't history interesting?




Source:
http://www.ancient.eu/article/49/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2685681
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peseshet



15 comments:

  1. There were some extremely clever women around long before our time. This is evidence of another. Loved the post and awesome pics.

    Have a good day. Sharon/
    Yvonne.

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    1. I know. and we think we know so much today. Thanks, Yvonne!

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  2. History is totally mesmerising! And no history as mesmerising as the Ancients!

    Nilanjana
    Madly-in-Verse

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  3. Sharon, History was my favorite subject throughout my school years and I love seeing historic documentaries or movies based on a historical setting. It's certainly cool to look back into time but I'm purrfectly happy to live in modern times. Interesting!
    Please come by for Art Sketching Through the Alphabet with Curious as a Cathy when you have a sec! Have a good day & happy a2zjing!

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    1. My family sometimes rolls their eyes when we visit a museum. They know they've lost me for the duration :)

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  4. Interesting link to the Hebrew Bible. I supposed this was before the Hippocratic Oath.

    http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2017/04/k-is-for-king-cepheus.html

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    1. Had to look up the Oath. It was found in 12th Century Greece. Didn't realize it was that old. Learned something new. Thanks Sage!

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  5. It doesn't surprise me that there were women in medicine in ancient Egypt. It was a better place to be a woman in general than, say, Greece. I hadn't heard of this one - thanks!

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    1. It really does appear to be the case. A good place to have been born. I can say the same today for being born in a western developed country.

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  6. Another very fascinating tale from the past - I am in awe of your research - wonderful stuff :) http://pempispalace.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/k-is-for-kids-kingdom.html

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    1. Thank you. Because of the king, we have official records documenting her existence. That is so cool. We know from this women were more than midwives in the medical field. Surely there were others

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  7. Hi Sharon - I can believe she reached heights unknown to other women ... and that her King must have been relatively enlightened ... it is fascinating how some things are known ... yet so much detail has been forgotten ... cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/l-is-for-legendary-beasts-of-britain.html

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  8. It probably came down to knowing the right people and being at the right place and time in history. I wonder if any bloggers will be remembered 3000 years from now :)

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  9. I just find this all so interesting and that one can find written documentation on women like this Egyptian who must have been important

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