Ancient Papyrus Reveals Galen's Crazy Theory About                'Hysterical Suffocation'
The ancient papyrus, shown here after it was cleaned and smoothed, holds medical text possibly written by the Roman physician Galen.
Credit: University of Basel

An unreadable wad of ancient papyrus remained tucked away in a Swiss university's collection for nearly 400 years. Conservators have now peeled the pages apart, deciphering the 2,000-year-old text for the first time. 

The message? A previously unknown text describing a bizarre theory on hysteria by the Greco-Roman physician Galen (A.D. 130 –210), whose ideas about anatomy and medicine dominated Western science until the Middle Ages.

"We can now say that it's a medical text from late antiquity that describes the phenomenon of 'hysterical apnea,'" Sabine Huebner, a professor of ancient history at the University of Basel, explained in an announcement of the find. "We therefore assume that it is either a text from the Roman physician Galen, or an unknown commentary on his work." [10 of the Most Mysterious Ancient Manuscripts]