A 2,000-Year-Old Papyrus to Talk About the Medical Condition Called “Hysterical Apnea”

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Finally, they found out what’s written on an ancient papyrus – there are details about a condition which is called “hysterical apnea,” which talks about how women who don’t have enough sex become hysterical. We all know that female hysteria was a common diagnosis once, and there are texts that show that the condition made its appearance back in 1900 BC in ancient Egypt. Hippocrates, who was the founder of medicine, also believed in the existence of this condition from the 5th century BC.

Scientists believe that the 2,000-year-old papyrus is actually a medical document that was written by the well-known Roman physician which was called Galen, who was actually the first one to understand how important the pulse and the flow of the blood was for the body.

It’s good to mention that ‘hysterical apnea’ is not recognized as a condition by doctors. The papyrus was kept in Switzerland, in Basel, from the 18th century. The text appears to be written backward on both of the sides (as if there was a mirror), and many generations of scientists didn’t really have any idea what was written in it. But now we have answers.

How did they do it?

To decode the papyrus, they used ultraviolet and infrared pictures, which were taken by the scientists. They found out that it wasn’t just a single sheet, but lots of them – they were glued together.

People need to understand how important this discovery actually is. The majority of the papyri represent documents – contracts, letter and receipts. We’re talking about a literary text which is more valuable than any other papyrus.

The term “hysteria” comes from the Greek word “hysterika”, which means uterus. Apnea talks about a termination of the air flow into the lungs. People used to believe that the uterus becomes too dry when women didn’t have enough sex. This lead to the organ traveling around the abdomen to look for moisture.

Patrick Supernaw

Patrick Supernaw is the lead editor for Great Lakes Ledger. Patrick has written for many publications including The Huffington Post and Vanity Fair. Patrick is based in Ottawa and covers issues affecting his city. In addition to his severe hockey addiction, Pat also enjoys kayaking and can often be found paddling the Rideau Canal. Contact Pat here