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Medicin og lægevidenskab i det gamle Ægypten: en publikation af Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark

What

The aim of my project is to finalize a text edition of the ancient Egyptian medical text Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg. The papyrus is divided between the Louvre Museum and the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection, and the publication is planned as a collaboration between the two institutions. The manuscript dates to c. 1450 BCE and is the second-longest medical text to survive from ancient Egypt, measuring just over 6 meters in length. The publication of the papyrus will take the form of a classical text edition, consisting of a translation with extensive commentary, in addition to a more easily accessible monograph discussing the content of the text, intended for specialists and non-specialists alike.

Why

Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg is one of less than a few dozen medical papyri preserved from 3000+ years of ancient Egyptian history and the second-longest text to boot. The manuscript significantly increases the available source material and adds considerably to our knowledge of the ancient science. For instance, it contains the earliest and one of the only embalming handbooks surviving from Egypt, which provides information on the practicalities of mummification and burial. In addition, the papyrus contains the world’s earliest herbal treatise, likewise a strongly underrepresented genre in the ancient sources. As such, the publication of the papyrus will bring much new information to the study of ancient Egyptian medicine specifically and to the history of medicine and science more generally.

How

Translating texts from one language to another is fraught with difficulties because no one-to-one correlation exists between any two languages. Translation is often further complicated by cultural differences between source and receptor, which is naturally amplified when attempting to translate millennia-old texts. This cultural and linguistic dependence means that when translating ancient Egyptian medical science, it is pertinent to stay as close to the original text as possible and eschew modern, culture-specific terminology and concepts in order to best reflect the Egyptian scientific principles and to avoid interpretation affecting translation. I therefore take an emic approach in my translation of Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg.

SSR

While grounded firmly in Egyptology and Philology, the publication of the ancient Egyptian medical papyrus is intended for a broad audience. This includes, for instance, showcasing how many of the practices and treatments described in the papyrus remained in use over thousands of years, at least up until 18th century European folk medicine. The consciousness of such a shared scientific origin might aid in providing an increased sense of interconnectedness between Western and Middle Eastern cultures today.