“Brooklyn Papyrus”
historians and Egyptologists refer to “Brooklyn Papyrus” as a “papyrus for snake bites.” The papyrus was discovered in the ancient city of Heliopolis, which is now known as Ain Shams. In 1889, the American journalist Charles Edwin Wilbour purchased it. In the 1930s, Wilbour’s daughter, Theodora, donated the papyrus to the Brooklyn Museum in the United States. French Egyptologist Serge Sauneron published a detailed description of the manuscript in his book “Les Thes Snakes en Egypte” (Snake Venom in Egypt) in 1889, which was later entitled “The Brooklyn Museum Papyrus.”
The “Brooklyn Papyrus” deals only with snake bites and dates back to the 30th Dynasty or the beginning of the Ptolemaic era, around 450 BC. It consists of a collection of coils of papyrus leaves divided into two parts, with some missing parts. Its total length is estimated to be about 175 by 27 centimetres. The text is located on the right side of the pages, and the different numbers indicate the upper part (“-48, 66.5 x 27.5 cm”) and the lower part (“-85, 66.5 x 27.5 cm”) of the leaves.
The upper part of the papyrus contains a classification of various types of snakes and their bites, reaching a total of 38 live and venomous snakes. The following part presents remedies used to eliminate snake and reptile venom, as well as ways to repel all snakes and close their mouths, and some remedies used to heal snake bites. The manuscript also includes treatments for scorpion stings and spider bites.
The “Brooklyn Papyrus” highlights the importance of onions as a raw material in the treatment of snake bites. One paragraph in the papyrus states that “greatly beneficial medicines are prepared for those suffering from the bites of all types of snakes: onions… should be well crushed in beer, and the patient should drink the mixture to vomit for one day.” In another paragraph, it is mentioned that “regarding onions, the priest Sekert should have them with him wherever he goes, as they kill the venom of any snake, male or female. If onions are crushed in water and used to wipe the body of a person, snakes will not bite him. If a person mixes it with beer and pours it around the house on one of the days of the new year, no snake can enter the house.”
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