An "exceptional" skull reveals the ancient Egyptians' attempt to treat cancer An "exceptional" skull reveals the ancient Egyptians' attempt to treat cancer

An "exceptional" skull reveals the ancient Egyptians' attempt to treat cancer

An "exceptional" skull reveals the ancient Egyptians' attempt to treat cancer

A team of scientists has uncovered an “exceptional” 4,000-year-old Egyptian skull that shows signs of attempts to treat cancer.

Scientists say marks on the skull could be indicators that ancient Egyptians attempted to perform surgeries on tissue overgrowth.

Another theory is that they tried to learn more about cancerous disorders after the patient died.

Evidence in ancient texts shows that the ancient Egyptians were “exceptionally skilled” in medicine (for their time), and could identify and treat diseases, traumatic injuries, and even install dental fillings. Other conditions, such as cancer, they could not treat.


But the new study strongly suggests that they may have tried.

An international team of scientists examined two human skulls, each thousands of years old, in the Duckworth Collection at the University of Cambridge.

Skull No. 236, dating between 2687 and 2345 BC, belongs to a man between 30 and 35 years old, while Skull E270, dating between 663 and 343 BC, belongs to a woman over 50 years old.

Microscopic observation showed a large lesion on the skull 236, consistent with excessive destruction of tissue, a condition known as a tumor. There were approximately 30 small, round lesions spread throughout the skull.

But scientists were astonished to discover cut marks around the lesions, which may have been made with a sharp object.

The first author of the study, Tatiana Tondini, a researcher at the University of TΓΌbingen in Germany, said: “We wanted to learn about the role of cancer in the past, the extent of the spread of this disease in ancient times, and how ancient societies interacted with it. When we noticed the marks on the skull for the first time under the microscope, we could not Of believing what was before us.”

Lead author Professor Edgard Camaros, from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, added: “This discovery is unique evidence of ancient Egyptian medicine’s experiences in dealing with or exploring cancer more than 4,000 years ago.”

“It appears that the ancient Egyptians performed some kind of surgical intervention related to the presence of cancer cells, which proves that ancient Egyptian medicine was also performing experimental treatments,” said co-author Professor Albert Isidro, an oncology surgeon at Sagrat Cor University Hospital in Spain. 

The E270 skull also showed a "large lesion" consistent with a cancerous tumor that had destroyed the bone, the research team said. 

The team also found healed lesions from traumatic injuries to the E270 skull, which may indicate that the woman may have received some type of treatment and, as a result, survived.

The results may indicate that cancer was a common disease in the past, although today's lifestyle, aging people, and carcinogens in the environment increase the risk.

But scientists say that studying skeletal remains comes with some challenges, which make definitive data complex, especially since the remains are often incomplete and there is no known clinical history.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

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