Physical Health in Dynastic Egypt, the Ideal vs Reality

Document Type : Original Article


Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Sadat City University


We are often impressed by the images of healthy and strong bodies which are presented through the ancient Egyptian art. Indeed the majority of people, of all genders, are represented in their youthful days, being fit showing no signs of obesity, exhaustion or illness. It seems that, with the exception of permanent disabilities, the ancient artists were inclined towards depicting people in their ideal physical form, young, slim and healthy. Yet how far was this image reflected in reality? It is a well known fact that the average life expectancy of Egyptians was around 35 years old, hence there is a good chance that people suffered many health problems that led to their short lives. In addition to that, how realistic is it to assume that most people in an ancient agricultural society looked like modern athletes?
Although there are numerous papers dealing with diverse topics like ancient Egyptian medicine, diet and diseases no research was devoted to evaluating the overall health and well being of ancient Egyptians. This article aims to be an analytical- descriptive study of the realistic situation concerning ancient Egyptians’ health by contrasting artistic images and ancient textual sources with modern resources like mummy analysis , diet evaluation and environmental factors to decide how overall healthy the ancient Egyptian life was. Permanent disabilities such as dwarfism and blindness have been excluded from this research since they are widely covered by research elsewhere.