Pregnancy Test in Ancient Egypt

Anne Hart has written an article in which she says that archaeologists examining ancient Egyptian medical training manuals have found a document that might be considered the earliest recorded pregnancy test. According to Hart, the document dates from around 1350 B.C.E.

The test consists of women who think they might be pregnant urinating on wheat and barley whole grains/seeds. The ancient papyrus translates as follows:

“If the barley seeds sprout or grow, it means a male child will be born. If the wheat sprouts and thrives, it means a female child will arrive in a few months. If the barley and wheat grains never sprout and grow when a woman urinates on the grain seeds, the woman is not pregnant and therefore, will not give birth this time around.”

Hart also reports that “Archaeologists actually tested the ancient Egyptian medicinal folklore in 1963. They had pregnant women do the test and found it to be 70 percent accurate. The reason why the ancient Egyptian and probably Sumerian test works is because the urine of pregnant women contains a high level of estrogen and progesterone, especially the estrogen that may help the grains to sprout.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

If this ancient Egyptian pregnancy test worked with a 70 percent accuracy rate, then, the test was highly reliable. The fact also that the grains sprouted only when the pregnant women urinated on the seeds, but not when women who were not pregnant urinated on them is another evidence that the procedure was truly effective.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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