The extraordinary Egyptian surgeons, renowned for their advanced medical knowledge, also attempted to treat cancer. This hypothesis has been proposed by scientists from the University of Tübingen and the University of Santiago de Compostela, who published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Medicine. Led by Tatiana Tondini and Edgard Camaró, the research team examined two skulls dating back approximately 4,000 years. While Egyptian doctors were adept at treating diseases, traumatic injuries, constructing prosthetics, and inserting dental fillings, they could not cure cancer. However, the researchers’ findings suggest that they made efforts in this direction.

“The skulls we analyzed,” Camaró explained, “offer a remarkable new perspective on the history of medicine.” The scientists studied two skulls from the Duckworth Collection at the University of Cambridge. The specimens, identified as skull and mandible 236 and skull E270, dated from 2687 to 2345 BC and 663 to 343 BC, respectively, belonged to a male and a female. On the first skull, researchers identified a lesion indicating severe tissue destruction and 30 small, round metastatic wounds scattered across the skull. Cut marks made with sharp tools were also found around the abrasions.

“It seems the ancient Egyptians performed some form of surgical intervention related to cancerous cells,” Tondini commented. “These findings suggest that their doctors conducted experimental treatments or medical explorations related to cancer.” Similar lesions, consistent with a cancerous tumor, were observed on skull E270. Based on the analysis, the researchers hypothesized that the woman had sustained injuries from a sharp weapon, from which she appeared to have later healed.

“Finding such wounds in female individuals is rare,” Tondini concluded. “If this woman participated in warfare, we need to rethink the historical role of women. Our work provides a promising foundation for future research in paleo-oncology, but further studies are needed to understand how ancient societies addressed cancer.”

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