Magic & medicine

The secrets of the Papyrus Ebers

When the Leipzig Egyptologist, Georg Ebers, arrives in Luxor, Egypt, in 1873, he is in search of a mysterious ancient scroll – it is said to contain the medical knowledge of the “Ancient Egyptians”. Finding it would be a sensation that could make the Leipzig researcher immortal. To search for it, a great adventure.

The knowledge that Ebers hopes to discover was already accessible only to a small elite 3,500 years ago. The art of healing was passed down from generation to generation – along with centuries-old recipes for remedies in which magic and medicine form a powerful combination. Secret knowledge that was recorded on papyrus and well guarded.

Papyrus – the paper of the pharaohs – still holds a great fascination today. At Leipzig University Library, the chief restorer, Jörg Graf, is to create the first true-to-original copy of the scroll that Georg Ebers brought to Leipzig 150 years earlier and which is now world-famous as Papyrus Ebers – 18.6 meters long, closely inscribed with mysterious characters that add up to almost 900 medical texts. But what is behind all this?

Egyptologist and pharmacist Tanja Pommerening is investigating this question at the University of Marburg. With her students, she is researching recipes from the Papyrus Ebers. How did the “Ancient Egyptians” treat hair loss, coughs or digestive problems? Can this knowledge still be useful to us in the 21st century?  

Premiere Arte: Saturday, April 15 2023, 8:15 p.m.

Arte Mediathek