By William Mullen
Published October 24, 2005
In the world’s first cities 4,000 years ago, people came to doctors for help with much the same problems they do today–everything from impotence, depression, tuberculosis and cancer to gluten hypersensitivity, hemorrhoids, narcolepsy and migraines.
The treatment they received in ancient Mesopotamia is also familiar in many respects, with medical specialists writing prescriptions for pills, potions and patches that patients would take to a pharmacist.
Studying medical texts inscribed in cuneiform, the first system of writing, Chicago researchers JoAnn Scurlock and Burton Andersen found the physicians of the earliest civilizations were delivering surprisingly sophisticated, knowledgeable and effective health care 2,000 years before Christ lived.
In fact, citizens received treatment superior to what Americans got in George Washington’s time, according to the researchers. The first president died in 1799 after doctors bled him in an effort to rectify the “imbalance” of his bodily “humors.”