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Physician's Box

The ancient Egyptians, like their modern counterparts, suffered from eye diseases called ophthalmias that could lead to blindness. Because ophthalmias are transmitted by flies, they occur primarily in the summer when the insects are most abundant in Egypt.

This box belonged to a physician who treated seasonal eye diseases. Each of the three compartments contained a powder for one of the seasons of the Egyptian year—winter, "inundation" (flood), and summer. The hieroglyphs on the exterior state that the summer powder remedied "running ophthalmia."

Catalogue Description:
Oblong wooden (?ebony) box cut from single block with three cylindrical hollows for eye ointment. Inscribed on one side in three columns, each headed with name of season and function of contents (eye medicines). Reverse inscribed in three lines, partly lost, for “…the chief of physicians, … S3-wady.t, repeating life.” Condition: Poor. Cover lost. Wood split. Surface with owner’s name and titles badly broken. Each hollow retains some of original contents.


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