Gender Role and Contributions of Women to Astronomy and Medicine in Ancient Egypt

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Abstract

Information on ancient Egyptian astronomy and medicine comes to us via remnants such as mummies, utensils, and extant buildings, besides the deciphering of hieroglyphs. Most resources do not permit the identification of the authors, let alone if they were male or female. Both scholarly disciplines are founded on systematic observation and flanked by superstitious companions (termed astrology and “magician” medicine, respectively). Two findings on astronomy are well established: we owe from ancient Egyptians the calendar and 24h clock system, still in use today. As multi-modal research efforts progress, we are gratified with new findings that occasionally force us to reformulate previous paradigms. For example, astronomy was thought to serve religious goals solely, but over recent years it became evident that their descriptions of celestial phenomena are based on scientific methods meeting current-day standards. Similarly, the empirical scope of the healing arts had advanced far beyond the mere magician-related component. While the dominant roles of deities certainly supported the power of the pharaoh, it must be recognized that religion acted as an obvious resort to house “all the unexplained”, not much different from surrounding societies during this era. Careful observation and systematic analysis, being basic constituents of scientific research, were deeply rooted in ancient Egyptian astronomy and healthcare practices. The contribution of women relative to men concerning these advancements seems comparable for medicine, but hard to establish for the field of astronomy due to lack of pertinent details. Newer studies enhance insight regarding the fascinating history of Egypt.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFemale Pioneers from Ancient Egypt and the Middle East
EditorsA.A. Karim
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Chapter1
Pages1-20
Number of pages20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

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