Coptic Medical Papyri

COPTIC MEDICAL PAPYRI

Among the voluminous Coptic medical literature, only remnants have survived, as is shown by the high numbers of the extant numbered pages. These remnants have come down to us on parchment, on papyrus, on ostraca, on paper, and on walls (as graffiti). Except for the second parchment manuscript (see below) the texts have been translated and edited by W. Till in Die Arzneikunde der Kopten (Berlin, 1951). Only a part is dated. The copies range from the sixth to the twelfth century. From the library catalog of the monastery of Elias in West Thebes (see below, ostracon 7), as well as from the graffiti (see below, graffiti 1 and 2) and the ostraca deriving from monasteries (see below, ostraca 4 and 5), it is clear that at least these texts came from Coptic monasteries.

In addition, the seventh-century document from Idfu (British Museum, Oriental 8903, published by W. E. Crum, in “Koptische Zünfte und das Pfeffer-monopol,” Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 60 [1925]:103-111) shows that there was a guild of doctors there (ll. 107ff.). In the middle of the fifth century, SHENUTE appointed seven doctors to give medical treatment to men wounded in the invasion by the Kushites (J. Leipoldt, “Ein Kloster lindert Kriegsnot. Schenutes Bericht uber die Tätigkeit des Weissen Klosters bei Sohag während eines Einfalls der Kuschiten,” in Festschrift für Ernst Barnikol zum 70. Geburtstag, pp. 52-56 [Berlin, 1964]). A group of Coptic doctors is known to us by name (K. S. Kolta, “Namen christlicher Arzte der Zeit in Ägypten,” Die Welt des Orients 14 [1983]:189-95).

Remains of Parchment Manuscripts

  1. A parchment leaf with the page numbers 214-15 (siglum BA); published by U. Bouriant, “Fragment d’un livre de médecine en copte thébain,” Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres. Comptes rendus ser. 4, 15 (1887):319-20, 374-79; trans. in W. Till, Die Arzneikunde der Kopten, p. 112 (Berlin, 1951). To this same manuscript belong two parchment leaves with the page numbers 241-44 (siglum ZB), published by G. Zoega in Catalogus codicorum copticorum manuscriptorum qui in Museo Borgiano Velitris adservantur, pp. 626-30 (Leipzig, 1903; reprint of Rome, 1810); see also J. F. Champollion, “Recettes médicales pour les maladies cutanées, traduites d’un fragment égyptien, en dialecte thébain,” Revue archéologique 11 (1854): 333-42 (edited by E. Poitevin after the death of Champollion); E. Delaurier, “Fragment d’un traité de médecine copte faisant partie de la collection des manuscrits du cardinal Borgia publiée par Zoega,” asiatique 4 (1843):433-52 (translation with notes), trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, pp. 135-37.
  1. Six parchment leaves from the sixth century with the page numbers 103-106, 111-14, and 135-36 in the Egyptological Institute of the University of Copenhagen, bought in Cairo at the beginning of the 1930s by C. Schmidt and perhaps deriving from the Jeremiah monastery at Saqqara; published by W. Erichsen, “Aus einem Arzneibuch,” in Acta Orientalia 27 (1963):23-45.
  2. Beginning of a parchment codex with magical and medical texts of the fifth-sixth centuries in Michigan (MS 136), with the page numbers 2-14 (siglum WM); published by W. H. Worrell, “Coptic Magical and Medical Texts,” Orientalia s. 4 (1935):17-37; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, pp. 132-34.
  3. Remains of a codex with the page numbers 167 and 168 in the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, inv. no. 593b, probably from the fifth-sixth centuries; published by Worrell, “Coptic Magical and Medical Texts,” Orientalia n.s. 4 (1935):187-92; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 134.
  4. Two parchment fragments in the Rylands Library, Manchester (siglum Ryl); published by W. E. Crum, Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, nos. 107 and 108 (p. 59) (Manchester, 1909); in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 132.
  5. Leaf of a parchment manuscript in the papyrus collection in East Berlin, inv. no. P 8109 (siglum BKU); published in Berliner Koptische Urkunden. Ägyptische Urkunden aus den Königlichen Museen zu Koptische Urkunden 1. Band, no. 25 (Berlin, 1904); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, pp. 112-13.

Papyri

  1. A papyrus roll of the ninth century, now in the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo, found at Meshaikh (siglum Ch); published by E. Chassinat, Un papyrus médical copte, Mémoires Publiés par les Membres de l’Institut Français d’Archeologie Orientale 32 (Cairo, 1921); see also A. Deiber, “Le papyrus medical copte de Meschaich,” Revue égyptologique 14 (1914):117-21; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, 113-29.
  2. Remains of a Coptic papyrus from Wadi Sarga (siglum WS); published by W. E. Crum and H. I. Bell, Wadi Sarga. Coptic and Greek Texts from the Excavation Undertaken by the Byzantine Research Account (Coptica III), pp. 51-52 (no. 20) (Copenhagen, 1922); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 134.
  1. Remains of a Coptic papyrus from the antiquities trade, now in the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, inv. no. 593a (siglum WM); published by Worrell, “Coptic Magical and Medical Texts,” Orientalia s. 4 (1935):192-94; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 134.
  2. Remains of a Coptic papyrus in the John Rylands Library, 109 (siglum Ryl); published by W. E. Crum, Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the Collection of the John Rylands Library, p. 59 (Manchester, 1909); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 132.
  3. Two papyrus fragments in the Vienna papyrus collection, nos. K5504 and K5506 (siglum KW); published by Till, “Koptische Rezepte,” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 12 (1949):43-49; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, pp. 129-30 (nos. 1-3; the Coptic text of nos. 4-21 is so far unpublished).

Ostraca (Seventh Century)

  1. Limestone ostracon in the papyrus collection in East Berlin, inv. no. P4984 (siglum BKU 27); published in Berliner koptische Urkunden, no. 27 (Berlin, 1904); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p.
  2. Limestone ostracon in the British Museum, from the excavation of the Egypt Exploration Society in Dayr al-Bahri (siglum CO 487); published by W. E. Crum, Coptic Ostraca from the Collections of the Egypt Exploration Fund, the Cairo Museum and Others, no. 487 (London, 1902); English trans., p. 82b; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 129.
  1. Limestone ostracon in the East Berlin papyrus collection, inv. no. P 880, bought in Thebes in 1859 (siglum BKU 28); published in Berliner Koptische Urkunden, 28 (Berlin, 1904); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 113.
  2. Potsherd in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 12,180.79, found among the heaps of sherds at the monastery of Epiphanius in West Thebes (siglum Ep 574); published by W. E. Crum, The Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes, Pt. 2, p. 177, no. 574 (New York 1926); English trans. p. 298; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 129.
  1. Potsherd in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, inv. 44674.130, now in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, found in the monastery of Epiphanius in West Thebes (siglum Ep 574); published by W. E. Crum, The Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes, Pt. 2, p. 117, no. 575; English trans., p. 298; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 129.
  1. Limestone ostracon in the British Museum, inv. no. 27422, from Thebes (siglum Hall); published by H. R. Hall, Coptic and Greek Texts of the Christian Period from Ostraca, Stelae, etc. in the British Museum, pp. 64-66, p. 49 (London, 1905); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 129.
  1. Limestone ostracon in the Institut Français D’archéologie Orientale in Cairo, inv. no. 13315, from the Elias monastery in West Thebes. This is a catalog of the library of this monastery, in which a “medicine book” is mentioned in line 36 of the verso. Of this book only remnants are extant; published by R. G. Coquin, “Le catalogue de la bibliothèque du Couvent de St. Elie “du Rocher’ (Ostrakon IFAO 13315),” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 75 (1975):207-239.

Paper

  1. Remains of a manuscript in book form in the East Berlin papyrus collection, inv. no. P 8116/7 (siglum BKU 26); published in Berliner Koptische Urkunden, 26 (Berlin, 1904); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 113.
  2. Paper strip with medicinal texts (siglum MK); published by Munier, “Deux recettes médicales coptes,” Annales du Service des antiquités 18 (1918):284-86; E. Chassinat, “Deux formules pharmaceutiques coptes,” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 49 (1949):9-22; trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 130.
  3. Paper manuscript in the John Rylands Library, no. 104, sec. 3 (siglum Ryl); published by W. E. Crum, Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 104,3 (Manchester, 1909); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 131.
  4. Leaf of a manuscript (siglum Ryl 106); published by W. Crum, Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, no. 106 (Manchester, 1909); trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, pp. 131-32.
  5.  Paper leaf (siglum TM); published by B. A. Turajew, Materialy po archeologii christianskavo Egipta, no. 9 (Moscow, 1902); W. Till, “Koptische Rezepte,” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 12 (1949):49-54; German trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 132.

Graffiti

During excavation, a graffito with a medicinal text was found on the plaster of the walls in each of two monasteries:

  1. In Wadi Sarga no. 21 (siglum WS); published by W. E. Crum and H. I. Bell, Wadi Sarga, 21 (Copenhagen, 1922); German trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 134.
  2. In the Jeremiah monastery at Saqqara on wall 700 D (siglum Saq); published by H. Thompson, “The Coptic Inscriptions,” in J. E. Quibell, ed., Excavations at Saqqara (1907-1908), p. 57, no. 103 (Cairo, 1909); German trans. in Till, Arzneikunde, p. 132.