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Medical Writings From Ancient Mesopotamia Studied

Monday, February 12, 2018

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—According to a Science Nordic report, Troels Pank Arbøll of the University of Copenhagen studied 2,700-year-old texts written on clay tablets by Kisir-Ashur, a medical student who lived in the Neo-Assyrian Empire at the end of the seventh century B.C. Kisir-Ashur described how he was trained, and his writings offer insights into how the Assyrians understood the concept of illness. “It’s an insight into some of the earliest examples of what we can describe as science,” Arbøll said. During the earlier stages of his education, Kisir-Ashur practiced his skills on animals, then progressed to treating babies, and finally adults. The texts also reveal that disease was thought to have been caused by sinful or objectionable behavior by the sick person, or the result of witchcraft performed against the sick person. After the power that caused the disease was identified, it was treated with medical agents, incantations, prayers, and rituals. Healers also treated economic and social problems, which were thought to have the same origins as illnesses. “He does not work simply with religious rituals, but also with plant-based medical treatments,” Arbøll added. Kisir-Ashur also experimented with the venom of scorpions and snakes, and observed patients who had suffered bites or stings. To read in-depth about cuneiform tablets, go to “The World's Oldest Writing.”

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