Open Journal Systems

Treatment in medical papyri used saponification for burns from exposure to Santorini fallout material

Siro I. Trevisanato


Attested in Bronze Age Mesopotamia to treat wool, saponification was adapted in Egypt for medicinal purposes. Remedies in medical papyri from Bronze Age Egypt describe alkalis such as latex mixed to lipids such as bovine fat and wax, resulting in cold procedure saponification. The paste thus derived adequately treated injuries from exposure to volcanic ash fallout from the Santorini eruption at the end of the 17th century BC. The best example for such remedy is London Medical Papyrus 55, which treated burns and ensured the prevention of the formation of larvae in the wound.


Levey M. Gypsum, salt and soda in ancient Mesopotamian chemical technology. Isis. 1958; 49: 336–342.

Levey M. Chemistry and Chemical Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia. Amsterdam, NY: Elsevier; 1959: pp 143-149.

Konkol KL and Rasmussen SC. An Ancient Cleanser: Soap Production and Use in Antiquity. In: Rasmussen SC (Ed.). Chemical Technology in Antiquity. American Chemical Society, ACS Symposium Series, 2015: Volume 1211, pp 245-266.

Wente E.F. Letters from Ancient Egypt. Writings from the Ancient World 1. Atlanta: Scholars. 1990: pp 98-110.

Trevisanato S. Ancient Egyptian doctors and the nature of the biblical plagues. Med Hypotheses. 2005; 65:811-813.

Trevisanato SI. Treatments for burns in the London Medical Papyrus show the first seven biblical plagues of Egypt are coherent with Santorini's volcanic fallout. Med Hypotheses. 2006; 66:193-196.

Trevisanato SI. Six medical papyri describe the effects of Santorini's volcanic ash, and provide Egyptian parallels to the so-called biblical plagues. Med Hypotheses 2006; 67:187-90.

von Deines H, Grapow H, Westendorf W. Grundniß der Medizin der alten Ägypter IV1, Übersetzung der medizinischen Texte. Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1958.

Wreszinski W. Der Londoner medizinische Papyrus (BM 10059) und der Papyrus Hearst - Transkription, Übersetzung und Kommentar, mit 19 Tafeln. Leipzig; 1912. 135-218.

Sykes RA, Mani MM, Hiebert JM. Chemical burns: retrospective review. J Burn Care Rehab. 1986; 7: 343-347.

Kolios L, Striepling E, Kolios G, Rudolf KD, Dresing K, Dörges J, Stürmer KM, Stürmer EK. The nitric acid burn trauma of the skin. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg 2010; 63:e358-63.

King RJ. Minerals explained 37: Cinnabar Geology Today 2002; 18:195-199.

Hall AH, Blomet J, Mathieu L. Diphoterine for emergent eye/skin chemical splash contamination: A review. Veterinarian and Human Toxicology. 2002; 44:228-231.

Horwell CJ, Sparks RSJ, Brewer TS, Llewelin EW, Williamson BJ. Characterization of respirable volcanic ash from the Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat, with implications for human health hazards. Bull Volcanol. 2003; 65:346-62.

McCormick PM, Thomason LW, Trepte CR. Atmospheric effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. Nature. 1995; 373:399-404.

Friedrich WL, Kromer B, Friedrich M, Heinemeier J, Pfeiffer T, and Talamo S. Santorini Eruption Radiocarbon Dated to 1627-1600 B.C. Science 2006; 312: 548.

Trevisanato SI. Medical papyri describe the effects of the Santorini eruption on human health, and date the eruption to August 1603–March 1601 BC. Med Hypotheses. 2006; 68:446–9. and Trevisanato SI. Corrigendum to: Medical papyri describe the effects of the Santorini eruption on human health, and date the eruption to August 1603–March 1601 BC. Med Hypotheses. 2006; 68:446–449. Medical Hypotheses. 2009; 72:235.

Bronk Ramsey C, Dee MW, Rowland JM, Higham TFG, Harris SA, Brock F et al. Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt. Science. 2010; 328:1554-1557.

Eastwood WJ, Tibby J, Roberts N, Birks HJB, and Lamb HF. The environmental impact of the Minoan eruption of Santorini (Thera): statistical of palaeoecological data from Gölhisar, southwest Turkey. The Holocene 2002; 12: 431-444.

Guichard F, Carey S, Arthur MA, Sigurdsson H and Arnold M. Tephra from the Minoan eruption of Santorini in sediments of the Black Sea. Nature 1993; 363:610-612.

Stanley DJ, Sheng H. Volcanic Shards from Santorini (Upper Minoan Ash) in the Nile Delta, Egypt. Nature 1986; 320:733-735.

El-Gibaly MH, El-Reweiny FM, Abdel-Nasser M, El-Dahtory TA. Studies on phosphate-solubilizing bacteria in soil and rhizosphere of different plants. I. Occurrence of bacteria, acid producers, and phosphate dissolvers. Zentralbl Bakteriol Parasitenkd Infektionskr Hyg. 1977; 132: 233-39.

Cassiolato ME, Miyazawa M, Meda AR, and Pavan MA. A Laboratory Method to Estimate the Efficiency of Plant Extract to Neutralize Soil Acidity. Braz Arch Biol Technol. 2002; 45:183-187.

Masset S, Monteil-Rivera F, Dupont L, Dumonceau J, Aplincourt M. Influence of humic acid on sorption of Co(II), Sr(II), and Se(IV) on goethite. Agronomie. 2000; 20: 525-535.

Mackay JG. The Measurement of the pH Value of Rubber Latex. Rubber Chemistry and Technology. 1930; 3:616-617.

Pliny. Natural History. WHS Jones (translator). Harvard University Press: Loeb Classical Library No. 418. 1963.

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Article Metrics Graph

No metrics found.


  • There are currently no refbacks.