We have known for a long time that the ancient Egyptians were far ahead of their time. Now, however, it appears that even the pregnancy test was not strange to them. Whether or not it was as reliable as our modern version is left in the middle.
The Faculty of Archaeology at the University of Copenhagen is being forced to toil. An international team of researchers combines their knowledge to translate 1,400 extremely difficult Egyptian papyri. A time-consuming job that nevertheless bears fruit.
In a recently translated document from 1,500 to 1,300 BC, a primitive pregnancy test is described. As with our contemporary predictors, the woman’s urine was also scrutinized. If you wanted to test if you were pregnant, you had to pee both in a bag of barley and in a bag of wheat.
“When these seeds start to grow, the woman is pregnant”, the writing says. “When the barley grows, it becomes a boy. As the wheat grows, it becomes a girl. If nothing grows, the woman is not pregnant.”
Medical writings like these are exceptionally rare. “The importance of this papyri cannot be overstated. The stack of 1,400 documents that we are studying only counts about ten medical texts”, explains researcher Kim Ryholt.
“Everything we can learn about the medical knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians is therefore very important.”
The recent translations brought more new insights about the medical knowledge of the Egyptians. Until now it was suspected that they were not aware of the existence of the kidneys. In one of the documents this body is discussed, indicating that their medical knowledge was even more advanced than we thought so far.
They already had a solution for the eye disease trichiasis (the growth of eyelashes on the inside of the eye blade). They mixed the blood of a lizard, a bull, a female donkey and a female goat and applied it to the patient’s eye. Whether this became so much better, is still the question.