The Journey of Discovering Skull Base Anatomy in Ancient Egypt and the Special Influence of Alexandria

Ali M. Elhadi, M.D.; Samuel Kalb, M.D.; Luis Perez-Orribo, M.D.; Andrew S. Little, M.D.; Robert F. Spetzler, M.D.; Mark C. Preul, M.D.


Neurosurg Focus. 2012;33(2):e2 

In This Article


Knowledge about the anatomy of the human cranium and brain began in Egypt 5 millennia ago. The process began with the ancient Egyptians, whose embalmers, either accidentally or because of their profession, acquired anatomical knowledge to perform mummification rituals. By the time of Galen, anatomical knowledge had advanced considerably through human dissection and often by vivisection. By the end of the 4th century BC, the great city of Alexandria was founded. The establishment of the medical school and the library in Alexandria, coupled with the feasibility of human and animal dissection at the Mouseion, created an incredible atmosphere for developing knowledge about one of the most concealed anatomical structures of the human body: the skull base. This understanding influenced Arabic anatomists (for example, Rhaza and Ibn Sina) and numerous contemporary Western anatomists, including Vesalius, Piccolomini, Willis, Tiedemann, Owen, Leuret, and others who continued their work based on the foundation provided by those who came to Alexandria.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: