Humanities Ancient Culture Term Paper

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Ancient Egyptian Gynecology

In ancient Egypt, sex was open and untainted by guilt. It was considered an important part of life and both single and married couples had sex. Ancient Egyptian religious shows signs of adultery, incest, homosexuality, masturbation and necrophilia. Masculinity and femininity were strongly linked with the ability to conceive and bear children.

Ancient Egyptians saw fertile women as the most attractive ones. A woman who had children was believed to be more fortunate than a woman without children. Similarly, men who bore children were seen as more masculine than those who did not.

The Egyptians enjoyed close family relationships in Egyptian mythology. The fact that they had no taboo against incest leads to the conclusion that incest may have been normal in ancient Egypt.

Egyptian men had false penises attached to their mummies while Egyptian women had artificial nipples attached. Both would become fully functional in the afterlife, where they were free to engage in sexual intercourse, if they desired.

There were even fertility dolls in many graves - women with wide, child-bearing hips that were often carrying children in their arms. Other fertility dolls, known as paddle dolls, don't have any legs, and their bodies end in very wide pubic area, with tiny heads and arms.

Ancient Egyptian Women and Children

In ancient Egypt, children were seen a great blessing for many reasons. Children took care of their parents in their old age. The scribe Ani instructed that children repay the devotion of Egyptian mothers: "Repay your mother for all her care. Give her as much bread as she needs, and carry her as she carried you, for you were a heavy burden to her. When you were finally born, she still carried you on her neck and for three years she suckled you and kept you clean." The children were also responsible for the funerary provisioning of the parents after their death.

Ancient Egyptians used a wide variety of tests for fertility, pregnancy and sex determination. The tests consisted of procedures such as inducing vomit and examining the eyes. Emmer and barley, the lady should moisten with her urine every day, like dates and like sand in two bags. If they all grow, she will bear a child. If the barley grows it will be a male, if the emmer grows it will be a female, if neither grow she will not bear a child. This technique was disproved in the late 20th century.

While women in many ancient societies were treated as inferior beings, women in ancient Egypt were highly respected and held some rights. In Egyptian society, people were ranked by the titles they held and the Egyptians cherished these titles. Most women held the "Mistress of the House" title, but a few were recorded as stewards, treasurers and physicians.

Since ancient Egyptian women were banned from positions that required writing, it is believed that most were illiterate. A woman's status typically depended on the rank of her male relations but she had individual rights. She could hold property in her own name and even hold a profession that gave her economic freedom from her male relations.

Egyptian women were equal in the court system and were able to act as witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants. In addition, they were accountable for crimes and would suffer the same punishments as men. Most of the information we have of ancient Egyptian women is based on the lives of noblewomen and wealthy women. Little is known of peasant women.

Ancient Egyptian tombs depict women at many different occupations, including dancers, musicians, beer brewers, priestesses and homemakers. While men were depicted as old and fat, a sign of wisdom, women were always youthful and the childbearing parts of her body were always emphasized. In tomb paintings, a man's wife, sisters and mother always appear to be the same age. This may be because of the negative image that old age has with child bearing and that a youthful body is able to bear children.

In ancient Egypt, women held appearance in high regard. They practiced good hygiene and grooming habits, as these were seen as a reflection of good breeding. Ancient Egyptian women did not consider cosmetics to be a luxury. Rather, they were a daily necessity. Their paintings show women in the latest fashions of wigs, clothing and makeup. A hairy body was not desired by either sex and shaving was a must for the wealthy.

Women in ancient Egypt practiced birth control with little interference from religious or political authorities. The knowledge of plants was used to block contraception. Midwives and herbalists prescribed herbs such as silphium, pennyroyal, artemisia, myrrh and rue.

The female organs were likewise seen as tubes open into the internal cavity; the eye was supposed to communicate with the car and the only purpose of the brain was to pass mucus to the nose, with which it was also thought to be connected. The Egyptian idea of the human body, then. was as a network of interconnecting channels and analogous to the branches of the Nile and the artificial canals of their own country. It was soon realized that in some of the metu the heart 'spoke' and a doctor could 'measure the heart' from this beat. But he could only tell if the heart was going faster or slower by comparing the patient's pulse with his own.

Ancient Medicine

The Egyptians had medical specialists. Archaeological evidence proves that there were early forms of dentistry in the Fourth Dynasty, as well as eye doctors and anal specialists. In addition, ancient Egyptians had doctors that dealt with the medical conditions of women's fertility, pregnancy and contraception.

The main source of modern knowledge regarding ancient Egyptian medicine comes primarily from seven papyri that date from around 2000 to 1090 B.C. But it is believed that a much earlier practice of medicine dates back to the Old Kingdom.

The Kahun Gynecology Papyrus dates back to 1825 B.C. It describes methods of diagnosing pregnancy and the sex of the fetus, toothache during pregnancy, diseases of women, as well as feminine drugs, pastes and vaginal applications.


The earliest recorded reference to female infertility was written in 2200 B.C. In ancient Egypt. The passage was based on the concept of clear passage, which stated that woman must have a clear passage from her vagina to her mouth in order to be fertile.

The ancient Egyptians would test a woman's fertility by placing a clove of garlic in the woman's vagina and then testing to see if it could be smelled on her breath. Or she could simply sleep for a night with garlic in her vagina. If she could smell or taste the garlic in her mouth in the morning, she knew she was fertile. If not, she was infertile. The concept of the clear passage was based upon the connection between a woman's genital parts and the interior of the body.

This theory was, of course, proved inaccurate many years later, but the ancient Egyptians were respected for their theories and considered excellent observers of their patients. For example, they knew if a patient was suffering from dislocated vertebrae by the way he moved. And they could test a woman for pregnancy by examination of grains in urine.

As a fertility treatment, a woman would squat over a hot mixture of frankincense, oil, dates and beer and allow the vapors to enter her.

Pregnancy Testing

In ancient Egypt, pregnancy testing was based on the theory that a pregnant woman's urine germinates cereals quicker than a non-pregnant woman. The sex of a future child was also based on urine samples. If a woman's urine germinated wheat, she was carrying a boy. If it germinated barley, it was a girl. These tests were used in Europe until the Middle Ages.

Delivery of a Child

During labor, Egyptian women squatted with her arms supported by her knees and sitting on two bricks. Burning resin, or massaging the abdomen by saffron powder and beer alleviated difficult labors.

To induce delivery of a child, Place on the woman's abdomen a plaster of sea salt, emmer wheat and rushes from the Nile River. Place on the woman's abdomen a plaster of sea salt, emmer wheat and rushes from the Nile River.

Midwives and Childcare

As women gave birth, they sought and received care from supportive others. At an unknown point in the cultural evolution, some experienced women became designated as the wise women to be in attendance at birth. Thus, the profession of midwifery began. Indeed, as historians have noted, midwifery has been characterized as a social role throughout recorded history, regardless of culture or time.

Advances made in ancient times regarding midwifery are still used today. In ancient Egypt, midwives frequently used potions and herbs to assist during pregnancy and labor to reduce the pain and induce labor, if needed. Many of these potions and herbs were helpful in forming the foundation of modern medicine.

In ancient Egyptian tomb paintings,…

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