I am excited! The new medical papyrus is finally being edited, after having been exhibited in 2007 for two months only at the Louvre; it deals with the Khonsu pustules that might have been cancer as described in the Ebers papyrus (worked in my 'Oncology in ancient Egypt'). Thierry Bardinet published an article about the papyrus religious' angle but the medical info is revealed!!!
After reading the article with extreme attention I have gathered some notes and I am posting them here alongside with quoting form the article to illustrate how this papyrus really shows that the ancient Egyptians really knew about cancerous diseases and tried to treat them.
Papyrus Louvre E32847, recto 20-verso 16
Benign and malignant tumours
Osiris as a victim of Khonsu is an expression I found endearing as Osiris represents life and regeneration and Khonsu is the 'bad guy' here. The one bringing the worse disease ever. Maybe not even Osiris could ressuscitate from this...
These nasty diseases were brought by Khonsu's will, and the Louvre Papyrus presents conjurations to ward off the disease. The whole nasty thing has a big name and it is called many things, which describe how pathological it is for the human being...
- the disease is revealed by the swellings it produces in the body
- secretions are produced now from the swellings, and these appear on top
- these substances once produced, are very corrosive
- and these are all actions of a god (Khonsu) of a deceased, of death itself
In summary, a malignant growth, and this needs to be expelled and fought.
The swellings are liquid filled pouches containing deadly secretions, bringing disease; some are incurable, others simple absesses. They might have different sizes and different substances being produced, and we cannot use the description to say those are lymph nodes, swollen to battle infection.
The secretions coming out of the body can be considered malevolent substances – wxdw - the carriers of disease, transmitters of pain and pathology.
The wxdw were originated by a type of putrid process in the intestine and these substances circulate all over the body while resting.
Their removal was vital, and therefore ancient Egyptians carried out daily purges in order to get their bodies pure and clean of disturbing substances and infections of all kind.
I have presented a poster (and I am waiting to know if it is going to be published), in Bolzano, at the Mummy Conference of 2009 which had:
There are reasons to believe, from studies made on the Ebers Papyrus, that oncology was a fact in ancient Egypt. Doctors then had already some knowledge allowing them to diagnose and treat cancer, although, from the literary sources we have an undefined idea of how did they make a distinction between an abscess, a pustule or a neoplasia.
Now I can add that we do know they made the distinction!!
These secretions degraded the body and these wxdw were more dangerous than the ordinary ones coming out of other diseases...as they would cause cancerous ulcers.
And these were the most morbid pathologies engineered by Khonsu...
The cancerous nature of pathological formations due to Khonsu's actions seems evident in the reading of Papyrus Louvre E32847.
Doctors knew cancer was serious and beyond their therapeutical possibilities. By approaching this disease the doctor is entering a pathogenic environment filled with demons!
The doctor has to be paying attention when taking the demons/disease out of the patient so to avoid them to enter his own body. This 'protection of the doctor is well shown in Papyrus Ebers 1,2,3 paragraphs. These demons were, of course, emissaries from Seth!
From the other hand Khonsu is a very difficult god to oppose, in this Louvre Papyrus the doctor is fighting Khnosu's decisions asking for the help of a foreign god, also a coleric one.
This foreign god, coming from Palestine, is a baboon named twice in this papyrus and he is called upon to fight cancer violently, which was caused by khonsu (another baboon).
The cult place of this foreign god is found in a mountain, ' the baboon from the Laban mountain with a face as fire, eyes as flames, and a breath that burns tumours' or ' the baboon from the region-of-the-Phoenician-juniper'.
At the New Kingdom Khonsu was depicted with two baboons, the second one being the one applying decisions, and this is shown in Stela C284 from the Louvre, a fighter who specializes in demons...
A lunar god.
An executioner, oposing nefast decisions which were not his own so he could anul them!
He commanded fate, so, he was the last resource...
Ouan - Edom - Palestine
Where the Phoenician junipers grow, the Laban mountain, Jebel Harun (about midway between the Dead Sea and the Elanitic gulf with two summits, in the hallow between which it is supposed that Aaron died), might be the exact spot where this god was venerated.
A geographic explanation based on ancient Egy[ptian texts is given in this article.
Another baboon in ancient Egyptian mythology, Bebon, also a lunar god, can be associated with this, as his lips are also fire as Papyrus Hariis mentions (BM 10042).
At the end it all turns out to be a case of jealousy, the evil eye working again as the Laban baboon might not like competition so he was called upon to fight Khonsu.
I loved reading this and I will be loking forward to read the complete edition soon to be out from the Louvre. I have to thank Dr. bardinet for his dedication and expertise on the medical papyri and the team at the Louvre Museum working on the new papyrus. This papyrus was offered by the Ipsen group to the French State in 2006, exhibited at the Louvre in 2007 and since that studied, its' publication to be out soon.