Anthony J. Cagle

Anthony Cagle received his Ph.D. in archaeology from the University of Washington in 2001 and has conducted fieldwork in Egypt since 1988 in the Valley of the Kings, the Delta region, Memphis, and the Fayum. Dr. Cagle has also done extensive research in the public health sector for over 20 years, including projects in China, India, and most recently in Kenya in association with the Coptic Hope Center for Infectious Diseases. His current primary research focus is the role of public health in modern low-resource environments and applying modern public health theory and analysis to the evolution of complex societies.

Public Health in Ancient Egypt by Anthony J. Cagle

Abstract. Most studies of health and illness in ancient Egypt concentrate on disease and other maladies affecting individuals and the medical treatments administered to individuals. However, the concept of public health has received comparatively little attention, largely because the practice of public health has been seen as a fairly modern phenomenon tied to purely scientific notions of the sources and causes of illness and disease and their prevention. Nevertheless, even in the absence of a true germ theory of disease, the ancient Egyptians did possess an understanding of the social context in which many disease conditions occurred and took steps to prevent and alleviate certain conditions at a group level. From fairly basic public health practices, such as the removal of trash to peripheral locations, to reasonably sophisticated theories on the origin of disease and the widespread promulgation of preventive practices, ancient Egypt shows that even in pre-scientific complex societies an awareness of the social context of health and disease existed. Egypt and other ancient societies developed strategies to deal with health and wellness on a community and national level and thus are amenable to study using modern public health theory. [more…]