Historian’s Mix-Up Mis-Named The First Female Doctor

Merit Ptah, the ancient Egyptian often cited as the “first woman doctor,” was likely made-up in the 1930s. A historian confused some names, and their mistake ended up in a book that has gone on to be widely cited.

The good news? The doctor who was mistakenly called Merit Ptah does exist! Her name was Peseshet, she was an “Overseer of Healer Women,” and there is strong evidence thanks to the 2400 BCE tomb of her son.

Archaeologists worked with primatologists to re-examine wall-paintings of monkeys in a Minoan building buried in volcanic ash around 1600 BCE. at the site of Akrotiri, which is located on the Greek island of Thera in the Aegean Sea. No monkeys are known to have lived in Greece at the time. Most of the monkeys in the painting have been identified as olive baboons, which are native to Egypt, but one monkey, with distinctive fur and an S-shaped tail, was identified as a grey langur, a species that lives in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indus Valley of India. It was already known that the Minoans had contact with Egypt. And this wall mosaic hints at contacts with the Indus River Valley civilization, as well. Or perhaps it demonstrates the far-reaching and interconnected nature of the trade networks even in the Bronze Age.

Bust of the Roman Empress Tranquillina (reigned 241 - 244 CE). She was wife of Emperor Gordian III thanks to her father, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, who were the emperor's personal bodyguards and by this point controlled who ran the empire. Empress Tranquillina reigned with her husband for just three years before her father died and the emperor lost power -- and his life.

Tracing Herding In Africa

It is known that animal herding, which had been in northeastern Africa since about 8,000 years ago, made it to southern Africa by about 2,000 years ago. But it has been an open question whether the pastoral life was brought south by immigrants, or whether it was adopted by hunter-gatherers already in the area. A multinational team of scientists recently examined 41 genomes from individuals who lived in Africa between 4,000 and 300 years ago. The genomes suggested that pastoralists migrated from southwestern Asia into eastern Africa around 5,000 years ago. They interbred with local foragers, mixing genomes. However, about 3,300 years ago, the inbreeding ceased.

Pastoralism had already been established by this point. The immigrants were now locals. So this study creates a new question: why did the genomes separate? What happened that pastoralists and hunter-gatherers suddenly stop intermarrying?

Recent work on the mummies of working people at Deir El-Medina in Egypt suggest that tattoos were much more common than previously thought 3,000 years ago. In the local cemetery, seven mummified women have been identified with tattoos. One had over 30! The subject of the tattoos included sacred motifs such as Wadjet eyes, baboons, cobras, cows, scarab beetles, and lotus flowers. Some tattoos appear to have religious meaning, while others appear to offer healing or protection. Just like today, ancient Egyptians got tattoos for many reasons.

Did You Know There Are Multiple Proposed "Flag for Earth" Designs?

Here are some suggestions for a flag to represent all of Earth and everyone on it. Click through the image gallery to see them all

Where African Currencies Got Their Names

Etymology -- the study of words' origins -- is pretty interesting. African currencies are an excellent example. How far back do you go for a words' "true" origin? Sierra Leone's currency, the Leone, comes from the Spanish "lion mountains" ("sierra" + "leon"). The Spanish word for lion comes from the Latin word for lion "leonem." But that Latin word comes from Greek "leon", which in turn comes from a non-Indo-European language, likely a Semitic language. The Greek word leon sounds similar to the Hebrew labhi (lion) and Egyptian labai (lion) and lawai (lioness). So which language do you count as the "origin" of Sierra Leone's currency? How far back do you go?

The Persistent Power of Egypt's Mamluks

The Mamluks were a corps of slaves which went from being the elite bodyguards of the Ayyubid Caliphate founded by Saladin, to running Egypt for themselves. It lasted as an independent state for over 250 years, from 1250 to 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. But the Mamluks survived.

By the 1630s, a Mamluk emir managed to become de facto ruler of the country. By the 1700s, the importance of the pasha (Ottoman governor) was superseded by that of the Mamluk beys, and it was even made official. Two offices, those of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-hajj -- both offices held by Mamluks -- represented the rulers of Egypt. In the name of the Ottoman Sultan, of course. It was only with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1799 that the Mamluk power center was permanently ended.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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