The tomb of Ankh-Ma-Hor who served King Teti of the sixth dynasty (circa 2345 to 2323 BC) in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, was discovered by Victor Loret (1897) and reexamined by Kanawati and Hassan in 1995.1  The tomb was dated 2340 BC by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and was called the “doctor tomb” because its carvings contain several medical scenes. Ankh-Ma-Hor may have been interested in medical items that were related to his life experiences, but there is no indication that he was a doctor. A scene depicting circumcision was found between rooms 1 and 2 on the east wall (image reproduced with permission from the Wellcome Library).

The circumcision is probably the oldest depiction of a surgery.2  This scene is the oldest known documented circumcision procedure. The scene shows the procedure performed in two ways. In the left part, the circumcised person was held by a third person, with the following words in hieroglyphs: “Hold him still. Do not let him struggle.” Interestingly, in the right part, the person performing the circumcision applied something to the penis with subsequently no need for him to be held by another person with words in hieroglyphs that read, “I will proceed gently.” We do not have information about the nature of the material that was used to avoid struggling of the person who had the circumcision. It is possible that the ancient Egyptians had knowledge about local anesthetics. It is not clear whether this preceded the use of coca leaf chewing practiced by the Incas before 2500 BC.3 

The author declares no competing interests.

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