Ancient Egypt

In preparation for burial, when organs were being removed from the body and placed in jars, the brain was ripped out and then thrown away. The video below shows a group of Manchester University scientists examining the brain cavity of a 2,500 year old mummy. As noted in the video, it does seem strange that the brain, which today is considered one of the most vital organs, was thought of as almost useless to ancient Egyptians.


Despite the lack of regard for the brain, one of the oldest texts on the brain, detailing 48 individual case studies on various injuries (27 of which are head injuries) was written c. 1700 B.C.E., and found in Egypt (Gross, 1987).   The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus is believed to be a copy or possibly a compilation of various surgical texts dated between 3000-2500 B.C.E (Tour Egypt). It is the first known documentation of the cerebral cortex, as well as the first document on the link between head injuries and neurological functioning.  More detailed information on each case study can be found on the External Links page.



BBC (2010, April 22). Inside the skull of an ancient egyptian – The story of science – Episode 6 preview – BBC two. Retreived November 1, 2012 from

Gross, C. G. (1987). Early History of Neuroscience. In Adelman, G. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, 843-847.

Tour Egypt (n.d.), The Edwin Smith surgical papyrus. Retrieved from

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