What is the origin of circumcision?

Why did people start circumcising, and did they know the health benefits?
17 July 2012



What is the origin of circumcision?


Chris Smith and Diana O'Carroll take a look at the historical origins of circumcision...

Chris - Trish in King's Lynn has got in touch and pointed out that there are various aspects of the Jewish faith, with it being carried out on the 8th day after birth because coagulation factors have peaked by then. But if we look further back Diana, what have you flushed out?

Diana - Well it looks like circumcision has been attested historically, at least among the Egyptians, and that would have been around the 3rd Millenium BC. It seems to be to do with cleanliness.

A few Millennia later, Heroditus was writing about the Egytpians and he described it as a right of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. Perhaps the meaning of circumcision had changed by then? 

I think the fact that different people in different parts of the world were practising circumcision implies it might be something that's gone on far longer than our historical records imply. Unfortunately the evidence doesn't fossilise well!

Chris - Today, we continue to discover things about this. It's been shown to have a dramatic effect on HIV - an 80% reduction in risk. The same benefit transfers to HPV which causes cervical cancer, penile cancer and warts.


Add a comment