Fragmentary ancient Egyptian text written in the cursive demotic script in red and blank ink on papyrus.

Detail of Papyrus Carlsberg 930, a demotic medical papyrus concerning proctology. Photo: The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection.

DAY ONE: Scientific Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East

Conference organized by Amber Jacob (ISAW), Sofie Schiødt (University of Copenhagen), Lingxin Zhang (Johns Hopkins University), Alexander Jones (ISAW)

Note: We are now fully booked for this event and are only accepting names for the wait-list.

The international research collaborative Scientific Papyri from Ancient Egypt (SPAE) is pleased to host its second annual conference at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU. This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together scholars working in the history of science and medicine of ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Near East. The leading sciences in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world were medicine and divination, above all astrology, and astronomy. Ancient medical texts reveal early conceptions of human physiology and pathology and provide information about methods of diagnosis and prognosis of patients, critical commentaries on transmitted medicaments and treatment methods, as well as early attempts at systematized botanical classification. From ancient astronomy and astrology developed the early calendrical and time-keeping systems that influenced those still in use today. Astrology was importantly used in the science of divination, which included the art of predicting the future through interpretation of the position of the heavenly bodies, interpretation of dreams, and interpretation of various other phenomena. Today, such practices are considered pseudo-science, but they were taken extremely seriously by the ancients.

While the cross-cultural transmission of scientific knowledge in the ancient world has been increasingly recognized in scholarship, much work remains to be done in terms of fostering interdisciplinary research. This conference aims to bring leading specialists in these fields together to facilitate discussions across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

For program and abstracts, please visit our website:


Session 1
Chair: Friedhelm Hoffmann, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

9:15-9:30am: Welcome

9:30-10:00am: Robert KadeFreie Universität Berlin
50 Shades of gyl – Deciphering the Other in Demotic Scientific Traditions

10:00-10:30am: Anne Grons, Freie Universität Berlin
The Coptic Herbal P. Carlsberg 500 and the Treatment of “Mist” in an Eye

10:30-11:00am: Coffee Break

Session 2
Chair: Kim Ryholt, Københavns Universitet

11:00-11:45am: Joachim Quack, Universität Heidelberg
A miscellany of mainly medical content: pBrooklyn 47.218.47

11:45am-12:15pm: Amber Jacob, ISAW
Skin Deep: Cutaneous Treatment and Taboo in Graeco-Roman Egypt

12:15-12:45pm: Nicola Reggiani, Università degli Studi di Parma
Medical Literary and Documentary Culture in Graeco-Roman Fayum

12:45-1:45pm: Lunch Break

Session 3
Chair: Claire Bubb, ISAW

1:45-2:15pm: Monika Amsler, University of Maryland
Recipes, Foodstuffs, and Words: The Theory Behind Voces Magicae

2:15-2:45pm: Kassandra Jackson Miller, Bard College
When Hours Are Numbered: Quantitative Vs. Qualitative Timekeeping in Imperial-Period Medicine

2:45-3:15pm: Coffee Break

Session 4
Chair: TBA

3:15-4:00pm: Friedhelm Hoffmann, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
A Medical Interpretation of Egyptian Magical Texts

4:00-4:45pm: Richard Jasnow, Johns Hopkins University
Medicine, Dreams, and Imhotep in the Book of Thoth

5:00-7:00pm: Reception

The conference is co-sponsored by ISAW, the NYU Center for Ancient Studies, the NYU Department of Classics, the NYU Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, and the NYU Society for Ancient Studies.

Registration is required at

Please check for event updates.

Please note that separate registration is required for Day 1 (September 19th) and Day 2 (September 20th).

ISAW is committed to providing a positive and educational experience for all guests and participants who attend our public programming. We ask that all attendees follow the guidelines listed in our community standards policy.