Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/264

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252
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

which are in red ink. The characters are distinct, bold, and tasteful, and the priest who traced them must have been an artist. Their form, says La Nature, from which we gather these particulars, would appear to fix the seventeenth century b. c. as the date of the manuscript; and the fact that in the calendar the name of King Ra-ser-ka (Amenophis I.) is mentioned proves that the papyrus is not posterior to the first half of that century.

The work itself dates from a period more remote than the transcription on papyrus. It is known that the most ancient Egyptian writings were works about medicine. Manetho tells us that the Egyptians honored one of their first kings as a physician. This assertion is confirmed not only by the fragment of papyrus of Brugsh and Chabas, preserved in the Berlin Museum, but also by the present document.

The first chapter of the papyrus treats of the original production of the book, which came from the Temple of On (Heliopolis). Then follow the remedies employed for the cure of various diseases, together with extensive details as to diseases of the eye, remedies against the falling off of the hair, for sores, fevers, the itch, etc. The chapter devoted to the mistress of the house is succeeded by one about the house itself, which insists on the importance of cleanliness, and tells how to banish insects, to exclude them from houses, to prevent serpents from coming out of their holes, to avoid the stings of gnats and the bites of fleas, and to disinfect clothing and dwellings. Then there is a treatise on the relations between soul and body, with secret methods of studying the heart and its movement.

After giving this general description of the papyrus, which he ascribes to the time of the early Pharaohs, very shortly after Menes, Ebers apologizes for not having studied it more profoundly, for the want of literary resources during his travels. But he promises that he will decipher it completely with the aid of his colleagues, though the task is one that will require several years of labor. He hopes that, with the aid of the various translations of the Bible, he will succeed in determining the meaning of the names of certain diseases hitherto unascertained. He will furthermore get assistance from ancient Egyptian writings, from the dictionaries of the Semitic languages, and from some Greek works which are essentially of the same nature as this papyrus, especially from a work by Dioscorides. There occur, according to Ebers, 100 words in the papyrus which are altogether new. Of course it is not expected that the work will throw any light on physiology, pathology, or therapeutics; still, it will be interesting for the information it will supply as to the history of medicine in remote ages.

 

The Weeping-Willow.—The pleasant tradition that made this the tree on which the captives of Sion, at Babylon, hung their harps, has been lately disproved by the investigations of Karl Kock. He shows that the Hebrew word "Garab," used by the poet David, refers to a poplar, and not a willow. This willow, because of the current belief, Linnæus named Salix Babylonica. That the tree was not a willow, Ranwolf had concluded long ago. Among systematists the Linnæan specific name will have to give way to that of Salix pendula (Mœnch). The hardiness of the drooping willow indicates a climate colder than that of Mesopotamia, and it is now regarded as of Chinese or Japanese origin.

 

An Ancient Well in Illinois.—A correspondent, writing from Fulton, Whitesides County, Illinois, gives the following particulars of the discovery of an ancient well in that locality, which he thinks is deserving of further investigation. Some twenty years since, a farmer, living on a high and dry rolling prairie, about sixteen miles from the Mississippi, in Whitesides County, dug a well in his yard. The first five feet dug through consisted of mould and clay, the next twenty-two feet of sand and gravel, and the succeeding five feet of black muck. In the midst of this black earth the remains of an old well were struck, the centre of the new excavation falling within six inches of the centre of the old one. This ancient well was stoned up in a workmanlike manner, the stones, in the opinion of the mason employed, having been laid in a sand-and-lime cement. It was filled with the mucky material composing the stratum in which it was found; and, on clearing out a