A critical assessment of proposed outbreaks of plague and other epidemic diseases in Ancient Egypt

Michael E. Habicht, Patrick E. Eppenberger, Frank Rühli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has reminded us of past epidemics. Pharaonic Egypt has often been associated with epidemics and disasters through the 10 plagues in the Bible. The aim of this study was to examine which epidemics and serious diseases can be effectively proven for Ancient Egypt through mummies and historical source texts. The biblical plagues cannot be proven because there is no agreement on the dating of the Exodus, or the Exodus is a conglomeration of memories of different events. Other diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis have been proven for Ancient Egypt, while polio and smallpox are still uncertain. There are indications of a bubonic disease from the time of the middle 18th Dynasty, but its exact nature cannot be determined from source texts or mummies, as they are too vague.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-219
Number of pages3
JournalInternational Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume103
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • pandemic
  • Plague
  • Ancient Egypt
  • Bible
  • Smallpox
  • Polio
  • Source texts
  • Mummy studies
  • Egyptology
  • paleopathology
  • Antiquity COVID-19
  • History
  • Medicine
  • Evolutionary

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