Votive Offering

We have a replica of a bladder-shaped votive offering in our History of Medicine Collection. It is a copy of an original in the Science Museum's Wellcome Collection which dates to 200 AD.

These sorts of objects were left at healing sanctuaries and other religious sites as offerings to gods such as Asklepios, the Greco-Roman god of medicine. It was intended either to indicate the part of the body that needed help or to thank the god for a cure. They were made from bronze or terracotta. A large range of different votive body parts were made and offered up. Thousands have been found at archaeological sites. 

You can listen to Professor Helen King, Professor Emerita of Ancient Medicine, Open University, talking about votive offerings here:


Cupping Vessel

We have a cupping vessel in our History of Medicine Collection. It is a replica model of an original in the Science Museum.

The original is a bronze cupping vessel, from Pompeii, Roman, 1-79AD. Cupping was an ancient therapy intended to restore the balance of the body. It remained popular in the Western world until the 19th century.

Wet and dry cupping could be carried out. Dry cupping involved placing the suction cups on the skin. Wet cupping was a form of bloodletting that involved first making an incision on the skin, then applying the suction cups to suck out small amounts of blood. 

You can listen to Professor Helen King, Professor Emerita of Ancient Medicine, Open University, talking about cupping vessels here:


Oculist's Stamp

These small stone stamps were used for marking semi-solid sticks of eye-ointment (called "collyria") before they hardened. The edges of the stamp are engraved with abbreviated Latin inscriptions in reverse. When stamped into the ointment, the impressions could be read correctly. This example has the name of Titus Vindacius Ariovistus, probably the maker of the ointments, and names that would identify different types: 'nard-oil salve', 'green-salve', 'infallible salve' and 'frankincense salve'. The name 'Senior' cut into top surface may be that of a healer who used the stamp and ointments.

You can listen to Professor Helen King, Professor Emerita of Ancient Medicine, Open University, talking about oculist stamps here:

 

 


Uroscopy Flasks

We have ten replica medieval glass uroscopy flasks in our History Department Collection.

Uroscopy is the examination of urine to diagnose medical conditions. Its use has been recorded from as early as 4000 BC, and it became common practice in ancient Greece. It became especially popular in medieval times, until it was eventually was replaced with more accurate methods during the early modern period. In modern medicine, visual examination of a patient's urine may provide preliminary evidence for a diagnosis, but is generally limited to conditions that specifically affect the urinary system itself, such as urinary tract and kidney infections.

Pregnancy and diabetes are two diagnoses that uroscopy, although out of favour with medical professionals, has a good rate of predicting.


Roman Surgical Tool

This Roman Surgical Tool is part of our History of Medicine Collection.

It is made of bronze and dates to around 100 AD. Roman surgical instruments were used for examining injuries, making small incisions, for gynecological examinations using the speculum and even for abortions (such as described by Hippocrates). Double-level forceps were used as tooth extraction devices at least since 300 BC.

Galen describes a range of medical instruments used by Greeks and Romans. The medical surgical instruments were made of iron, copper or copper alloys. The instruments were used to remove stones from the bladder as described in the Hippocratic books using the forceps. The ancient Greeks inserted a hollow metal tube through the urethra into the bladder to empty it and the tube came to be known as a catheter made of copper or lead, straight for women and S-shaped for men.

You can listen to Professor Helen King, Professor Emerita of Ancient Medicine, Open University, talking about Roman surgical tools here: