CAUSE OF DEATH
Disease and ill-health in Ancient Egypt was an everyday encumbrance that had to be endured from the common farmer to Pharaohs and Queens.
It wasn’t unusual for a person to become unwell and die within a few days. There were many virulent infections and illnesses that would spread and kill thousands of Egyptians every year.
The Nile river is what gave Egypt life but it was also the source of harmful bacteria. As a person would wade through the water the microbes would enter the hosts’ bloodstream, multiply and weaken the body. This would make the host even more susceptible to other illnesses such as diarrhoea and severe headaches.
Although some Egyptians no doubt enjoyed a life of longevity (Rameses II lived to be 91) most people weren’t expected to live beyond the age of 40.
This may seem shocking by today’s standards but Tutankhamun, who died at the age of 19, was already considered to be a mature man with responsibility.
Medicine was available but techniques and substances were for the most part ineffective. If an Egyptian suffered a broken arm it was usually a death sentence. Even moderate cuts could become infected and cause a slow and painful death.
Women had it tougher. Childbirth was deadly and women who had more than one child were at serious risk of dying even after a successful delivery. Fever and blood loss was the main cause of death.
The infant mortality rate was very high. When a child breastfeeds he/she is protected by foreign bacteria but as soon as solid food is ingested the risk of infection soared. Various Egyptian/Nubian cemeteries show that at least a third of burials are those of children. The young always suffered first.