An ancient Egyptian text from approximately 1500 bce, which described the “spillage of clear fluid from the interior of the brain“.
The Edwin Smith Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian medical text, named after the dealer who bought it in 1862, and the oldest known surgical treatise on trauma. This document, which may have been a manual of military surgery, describes 48 cases of injuries, fractures, wounds, dislocations and tumors.
It dates to Dynasties 16–17 of the Second Intermediate Period in ancient Egypt, c. 1600 BCE.
The Edwin Smith papyrus is unique among the four principal medical papyri in existence that survive today. While other papyri, such as the Ebers Papyrus and London Medical Papyrus, are medical texts based in magic, the Edwin Smith Papyrus presents a rational and scientific approach to medicine in ancient Egypt, in which medicine and magic do not conflict. Magic would be more prevalent had the cases of illness been mysterious, such as internal disease.
The Edwin Smith papyrus is a scroll 4.68 meters or 15.3 feet in length. The recto (front side) has 377 lines in 17 columns, while the verso (backside) has 92 lines in five columns. Aside from the fragmentary outer column of the scroll, the remainder of the papyrus is intact, although it was cut into one-column pages some time in the 20th century. It is written right-to-left in hieratic, the Egyptian cursive form of hieroglyphs, in black ink with explanatory glosses in red ink. The vast majority of the papyrus is concerned with trauma and surgery, with short sections on gynaecology and cosmetics on the verso.
On the recto side, there are 48 cases of injury. Each case details the type of the injury, examination of the patient, diagnosis and prognosis, and treatment. The verso side consists of eight magic spells and five prescriptions.