Peseshet, who lived under the Fourth Dynasty (albeit a date to the Fifth Dynasty is also possible), is often credited with being the earliest known female physician in ancient Egypt, though another, Merit-Ptah lived earlier. Her relevant title was "lady overseer of the female physicians," but whether she was a physician herself is uncertain. She also had the titles king's acquaintance, and overseer of funerary-priests of the king's mother.
She had a son Akhethetep, in whose mastaba at Giza her personal false door was found. However, the mother-son relation of Akhethetep and Peseshet is not confirmed by any inscription. On the false door is also depicted a man called Kanefer. He might be her husband.
She may have graduated midwives at an ancient Egyptian medical school in Sais; midwifery must have existed, even though no ancient Egyptian term for it is known. The Hebrew Bible – while not a proven source for historical events prior to the 7th century BCE – refers to midwives in Exodus 1,16:
- "And he (i.e. the king of Egypt) said: ʻWhen ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women and see them upon the stools...’"
Peseshet’s history plays a key role in the 2009 novel Storm Cycle by Roy and Iris Johansen, which tells the story of an archaeologist seeking to obtain and sell cures and treatments that the novel’s Peseshet is said to have discovered, and of a researcher whose only hope of saving her sister may lie in one of those cures.
- Hermann Ranke: Die ägyptische Persönennamen. Verlag von J. J. Augustin in Glückstadt, 1935., p.137
- Plinio Prioreschi, A History of Medicine, Horatius Press 1996, p.334
- Lois N. Magner, A History of Medicine, Marcel Dekker 1992, p.28
- Sheldon J. Watts, Disease and Medicine in World History , Routledge 2003, p.19
- Selim Hassan: Excavations at Giza, 1929-19, Vol. I, Oxford 1932, p. 83, fig. 144
- Giorgio Lise, Medicina nell'antico Egitto, Cordani 1978, p.41
- Paul Ghalioungui, Les plus anciennes femmes-médecins de l'histoire, in BIFAO 75 (1975), pp.159-164
- Selim Hassan: Excavations at Giza, 1929-19, Vol. I, Oxford 1932, pp. 73-86
- Mario Tosi, La donna nell'antico Egitto, Giunti 1997, p.79
- The Holy Bible, The British and Foreign Bible Society, London 1972