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Wandering wombs and wicked water – women’s complaints and their treatment

news editor12 March 2012

This evening event to mark International Women’s Day was held in the UCL Petrie Museum and was remarkably well-attended.

Dr Carole Reeves from the UCL Centre for the History of Medicine delivered an insightful talk, helpfully leaving plenty of time at the end for some engaging questions from the interested audience.

The Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus is the oldest known medical text, dating from Egypt’s Middle Kingdom (2025-1700 BC) and was used as the basis for the talk.

Dr Reeves used this historical artefact to discuss some of the similarities between complaints in women today and in the ancient world, but also examining the differences in how these problems were perceived and treated.

The Kahun Medical Papyrus was found by Flinders Petrie in 1889, and dates to about 2000 BC. The Papyrus consists of only three pages and is preserved in the Petrie Museum.

Since its discovery, the Papyrus has been translated by multiple people; Dr Reeves clarified that she would be referring specifically to a translation by Professor Stephen Quirke, Curator and Lecturer at the Petrie Museum.

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Psychical Research in Archaeology: Can the dead direct the living?

Katherine Aitchison27 January 2012

Talk of psychics conjures up images of mad old ladies conducting séances and bringing forth spirits made of cheese cloth, but last night at the Petrie Museum, Dr Amara Thornton (UCL Institute of Archaeology) took us through evidence for psychical involvement in archaeological investigations.

Principally, she concentrated on the life of one woman, Agnes Conway, who in the early 20th century was responsible for a series of archaeological investigations of Petra in Jordan. As well as being a respected archaeologist, Conway was also a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), a group that was involved in the scientific exploration of unexplained phenomena.

The society was comprised of some of the country’s leading figures in archaeology and edited two journals, one of which was available to members of the public and one, full of less ‘firm’ and more controversial results, that was for members only.

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