Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

CARGO Classroom 1.01

A sample CARGO Classroom lesson on Ancient Egypt. We explore the story of Imhotep: physician, architect and influence on Mediterranean cultures.

The exercise in this section is lifted directly from a CARGO Classroom resource for 14 to 15 year olds.

This is the main activity for the Imhotep lesson.

Please examine the sources provided and complete the activity below.

Source 1: Step Pyramid at Saqqara Egypt

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt. It is in the centre of the image with a deep blue sky with light clouds in the background.

It is the oldest pyramid in Egypt, built around 2,700 BCE, for the Pharaoh Djoser. A statue of Pharaoh Djoser in the pyramid names Imhotep and lists him as having many important titles, including Chancellor (person in charge of the finances), chief of the sculptors and High Priest of Amun-Ra. For that reason, it is thought that Imhotep was responsible for the construction of the pyramid. The pyramid is 62 metres high making it an incredible feat of engineering that has stood for 4,700 years.

Source 2: The Edwin Smith Papyrus

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols on a sheet of papyrus paper. The Papyrus paper is a light brown, tea stained canvas material. The hieroglyphic symbols are written in black ink with with a few symbols written in red.

The Canadian Physician Sir William Osler described Imhotep as “the first figure of a physician to stand out clearly from the mists of antiquity”. He proposed that Imhotep was the “real father of medicine” – not the Greek Physician Hippocrates.

The famous Edwin Smith papyrus, named after the American dealer who bought it in 1862, is considered by many to have originally been written by Imhotep. This is the oldest known written manual of surgery and trauma and describes 48 cases of wounds, fractures, dislocations, and tumours.

Among the treatments described are suturing of wounds, splinting, bandaging, managing infections with honey and resins and the use of raw meat to stop bleeding. Immobilisation was advised for lower limb fractures and spinal cord injuries and it also includes detailed anatomical and physiological descriptions.

Source 3: The Book Of The Dead

A close-up of a piece of papyrus paper with ancient Egyptian illustrations along the top. The illustrations are painted white and brown and they are showing several different example of Egyptian worship. Underneath the illustration are Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols - some are written in black with some of them in red.

This papyrus was made for Imhotep. It is known as the Book of The Dead of the Priest of Horus. It contains incantations, or prayers, which were intended to help him make a safe transition from death to eternal life. It is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Source 4: The Rod of Asklepios

A beechwood coloured python wrapping itself up and around a cylindrical rod. The model is against a grey background.

Knowledge of Imhotep’s achievements became incorporated into stories about Asklepios, the Ancient Greek god of medicine. The symbol of a snake and staff was often carried by those who had significant power in ancient Egypt, and this symbol also became associated with Asklepios. The rod of Asklepios is recognised today as the universal symbol for the professional practice of medicine.

Source 5: Statue of Imhotep

A brass statue of Imhotep as a young boy. The statue is black and shows a young boy sitting down, smiling and holding a scroll on his lap.

Numerous statues of Imhotep have been found across the Mediterranean region, including in Spain, Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey, most dating between 1000-30 BCE. The statues typically depict Imhotep sitting on a throne (a symbol of power) with a papyrus scroll on his lap (a symbol of wisdom and learning).

These statues are evidence of the religious cult that developed around Imhotep. In the years after his death, he became a godlike figure across many Mediterranean civilisations. At different times and by different groups he was likened to Thoth, the Egyptian god of time, healing and wisdom, and Asklepios, the Ancient Greek god of medicine.

Using the comments section, share three things these sources tell us about Imhotep.

This article is from the free online

Practical Skills for Teaching Inclusive History: CARGO Classroom

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now