Symptomatologie des morsures d'ophidiens d'après le papyrus Brooklyn nos 47.218.48 et 85 : aspects épistémologiques d’un texte égyptien ancien recopié au IVe siècle avant notre ère


fr Anthropozoologica 47 (1) - Pages 223-262

Published on 29 June 2012

This article is a part of the thematic issue Ophiaca. Diffusion and Reception of Ophidian Lore in Antiquity

Symptomatology of Ophidian bites according to Brooklyn Papyrus no. 47.218.48–85: epistemological aspects of an ancient Egyptian text copied out at IVth century B.C.E

This paper reconsiders the content of the ophiological Papyrus Brooklyn Museum no 47.218.48 and 85, edited by Serge Sauneron (1989), a remarkable document containing two treatises. The first one — *(Treatise entitled) symptomatology of snakes bites — consists of a catalogue of thirty-eight reptiles (including the Chameleon) whose bites are considered either as lethal, dangerous or having no consequences. The items include both a description and an analysis of bites. The second one is entitled Collection for making men extract venom of any male or female snake, of any scorpion, of any animal j(n)tš and any reptile, which is at the exorcist-of-Selkis’ disposal, and which is used to expel any reptile as well as to seal their mouth. It consists of a group of prescriptions for treating non lethal bites. Moreover the author wonders about when this document has been copied (IVth Century B.C.), the personality of its writer and the priestly background within which it was created. He specially puts the emphasis on the first treatise (complete translation), yet with regard to the second treatise by means of several tables so as to give an objective general survey concerning ancient Egyptian ophiological knowledge and how treatments were applied to snakes bites. The paper opens iatromagical and mythological perspectives showing that a specific link between Egypt and the Ophidian world was supposed to exist in Antiquity.


Chameleon, Egypt, Epistemology, Iatromagic, Magic, Bites, Brooklyn Ophiological Papyrus, Sauneron (Serge), Symptomatology, Venoms, Egyptian Mythology.

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