Driven by their deep-seated desire for eternal life in a healthy body, ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to begin collecting and recording medical lore and medicinals that were effective for a healthy body. With its religious origins, medical care was initially provided by priests, but evolved over time into an independent discipline practiced by the swnw (sounou) or physician. What has been preserved of their knowledge in extant medical papyri reflects the great capacity of Egyptians for practical achievement in treating symptoms, but lacks the abstract thought that was to come with the advent of the more rational Greek medicine. The number of prescriptions and incantations for the management of urinary disorders (hematuria, retention, frequency, infection) and dropsy that are mentioned in extant medical papyri likely reflect the frequency with which these problems were encountered. Urine was thought to be formed in the region of the bladder, by a process considered akin to purification. Available studies on preserved mummies indicate that kidney disease was not uncommon. Whether a functional role of the kidney was appreciated at all is highly doubtful. On the other hand, the available evidence suggests an awareness of the kidney (ggt) to which was ascribed a mythological role that may well account for why the kidneys and the heart were the only organs not removed during the process of mummification.

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