The American Research Center in Eygpt

James Henry Breasted Revisited

James Henry Breasted Revisited

James Henry Breasted Revisited

The Edwin Smith Papyrus: Updated Translation of the Trauma Treatise and Modern Medical Commentaries. Lockwood Press. Oct. 2012. Foreword by W. Benson Harer Jr.

Purchased in Luxor in 1862 by his namesake, The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a medical didactic text first translated in 1930 by James Henry Breasted. In this updated translation, by ARCE members Gonzalo M. Sanchez and Edmund S. Meltzer, the authors provide a new linguistic and medical evaluation of the original hieratic text, which is recognized as the basis of modern objective clinical thinking and the foundation of modern medicine, more than a 1000 years before Hippocrates. The authors have undertaken an in-depth analysis that encompasses the subsequent evolution that has occurred in medicine and linguistics since first translated by Breasted.

Gonzalo M. Sanchez is a Fellow of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and a practicing neurosurgeon.  He has maintained a life-long interest in ancient Egyptian medicine speaking and publishing extensively on these subjects. Sanchez was elected to the Explorer's Club in 2005.  He has been Vice President, and later served as President of ARCE-AZ from 2008 through mid-2012. He is a current member of the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition.

Edmund S. Meltzer (Ph.D. 1980, University of Toronto) was Associate Chair in the Department of Religion at The Claremont Graduate School and taught Egyptology at the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations in China before settling in Stevens Point, Wisconsin as an independent scholar. He is a long time ARCE member and has contributed to numerous Egyptological publications as well as J. H. Ellens, ed., The Destructive Power of Religion (Praeger 2004) and several other recent works in religious studies.

Dr. W. Benson Harer Jr. is a long time member of ARCE, previous ARCE board member, and speaker at ARCE Annual Meetings.

This book can be obtained from ISD Distributor of Scholarly Books: and will be available at the 2013 Annual ARCE Meeting.


An extraordinary contribution to our medical and surgical history! There is no question that the collaboration of an Egyptologist and a neurosurgeon has clearly made this translation a better result and a clear improvement on Breasted's original brilliant accomplishment, bringing this remarkable historical document back to new life. The addition of the illustrations will help the nonmedical reader understand what the various injuries represent-as always a "picture is worth a thousand words." A landmark work!

- James T. Goodrich, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sci., (Hon) Director, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Children's Hospital at Montefiore. Professor of Clinical Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Sanchez and Meltzer have performed a minor miracle, producing a new edition of Papyrus Edwin Smith that surpasses all previous efforts at translating and understanding this difficult and fascinating text. Meltzer has taken full advantage of this opportunity to test the Standard Theory of Egyptian grammar against a text that is perfect for the task. His translation remains lucid for a beginner while the grammatical notes are thought-provoking for professionals. This book is truly an important accomplishment in the history of translation and our understanding of medical history.

- Edward Bleiberg, Ph.D., Curator of Egyptian Art, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

This eloquent volume brings a cascade of new insights and breathes fresh vitality into the ancient Edwin Smith Papyrus. The eminent scholars, Gonzalo M. Sanchez, a distinguished Neurosurgeon and strong contributor to the field of Egyptology, and Edmund S. Meltzer, a noted Philologist, have teamed up to bring modern neuroscience and sophisticated advances in the interpretation of ancient Egyptian texts to bear on new case translations and commentaries. Remarkably, they have also brought to light the notes of Edwin Smith himself, which are published here for the first time. A visual index in color at the start of the volume makes the basic nature of the injuries clear to all, specialist and nonspecialist alike. Black and white photographs demonstrate the particular injuries in the cases. The authors convincingly demonstrate that the approach to treatment of trauma in ancient Egypt was very much in keeping with modern concepts of medical-surgical care. Not only will this sumptuous Lockwood Press volume fascinate clinical neuroscientists, Egyptologists, and historians of science, it will bring new audiences to this remarkable document.

- John Booss, MD, Professor Emeritus, Departments of Neurology and Laboratory Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine; Former National Director of Neurology, Department of Veterans Affairs

This new edition of the Edwin Smith papyrus should stand for a long time as the definitive study of a very important text, and-thanks to the very successful and happy collaboration of Edmund Meltzer and Gonzalo Sanchez-as a model for future studies of ancient Egypt's technical literature. This is a complete publication, which provides students and scholars with a facsimile of the original hieratic text, an accurate transcription of the hieratic, a modern translation and exhaustive philological commentary, and-particularly important for non-Egyptologists-an expert medical commentary by an experienced neurosurgeon. This is a milestone not only for Egyptology, but for the history of science and of medicine.

- Stephen Vinson, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University

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