New book supplies uncommon insights into a Mesopotamian doctor’s education


IMAGE: Relief of male and goat from the Neo-Assyrian duration at Musée du Louvre.
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Credit: Picture: Troels Pank Arbøll

A big collection of texts from the Assyrian therapist Kisir-Ashur’s household library forms the basis for Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll’s brand-new book. In the book entitled Medicine in Ancient Assur – A Microhistorical Study of the Neo-Assyrian Healer Ki?ir-Aššur, Arbøll analyses the 73 texts that the therapist, and later on his apprentices, scratched into clay tablets around 658 BCE. These manuscripts supply an exceptionally comprehensive image of the components, which constituted this particular Mesopotamian therapist’s education and practice.

” Ending up being a therapist in ancient Mesopotamia consisted of, to name a few things, copying standard texts. That was likewise among the methods which Kisir-Ashur learnt more about medical and wonderful understanding. And due to the fact that we have numerous manuscripts from his hand – which is entirely distinct – we can follow big parts of his education and profession. The sources cover a few of his really first texts, where he is presented to particular illness and their signs, along with anatomy and physiology, to later on texts, where he has actually ended up being accountable for the execution of recovery routines and carrying out home calls,” discusses Troels Pank Arbøll and continues:

” It is, for instance, intriguing to see that he most likely dealt with horses in the early phases of his profession. In Mesopotamia people were not dissected, so animals might have represented an option for acquiring insight into mammal anatomy, which is really comparable to the method which later on Greek physicians learnt more about anatomy. At an early phase of his profession, Kisir-Ashur likewise obtained understanding on how to deal with, for instance, scorpion stings and snakebites, which should have been an extensive issue in ancient Mesopotamia. It is for that reason likely that he likewise observed clients with poisonous stings and bites and therefore conceived the toxin’s impact on the body’s functions.

According to Troels Pank Arbøll, Kisir-Ashur likewise took a look at and cured kids at a later phase of his training. Similar sources recommend that there might have been a financial and ethical worth system that made it possible for striving physicians to try out higher self-reliance under their instructors’ guidance on animals and kids, due to the fact that malpractice would have had less serious effects if it worried these client groups.

Poultices and enemas


Some Mesopotamian professionals concerned illness as phenomena triggered by gods, devils or witchcraft. Approximately generalized, therapists like Kisir-Ashur treated these health problems by methods of magic, routines and prayers, while the signs of a disorder were dealt with clinically, usually through using various compresses or potions.

” According to the texts, parts of Kisir-Ashur’s ‘medical training’ included using plasters and plasters with various kinds of plants. Regrettably, we do not understand much about the plants he utilized, due to the fact that it is hard to recognize the contemporary equivalent of plants called in the texts. Nevertheless, what we can state is that the therapist plainly had intimate understanding of plant homes in order to do his task. In addition to plasters and plasters of different kinds, Kisir-Ashur and his coworkers were really crazy about utilizing suppositories along with flushing orifices with mixes. Hence, they might have attempted to expel illness from the body by presenting various things into several orifices. In specific, enemas were utilized versus bile and jaundice, discusses Troels Pank Arbøll.

” Bile was, sometimes, viewed as a type of fundamental toxin in mammals that might control fluids in the body and trigger illness. This is partly similar to the Greeks’ so-called humoral theory – specifically, the concept that illness can be discussed by the relationship in between 4 of the body’s fluids, which these might be controlled. Nevertheless, it is still prematurely to recommend a connection in between the Mesopotamian and Greek customs,” states Troels Pank Arbøll.

Early empirical research studies


After Kisir-Ashur’s ‘graduation’, it appears that he has actually reached such a high level of efficiency that he himself started to check a few of the treatments he had actually formerly copied from other sources. .

“You can see that he checks a particular kind of enema versus bile and jaundice to ensure that it is effective. And lastly, he makes his own dish, which we need to presume was more reliable. Without straight comparing this technique to contemporary empirical science,, it is however clear that experience and trustworthy outcomes contributed in this therapist’s practice,” states Troels Pank Arbøll.


Troels Pank Arbøll’s book Medicine in Ancient Assur – A Microhistorical Study of the Neo-Assyrian Healer Ki?ir-Aššur is readily available as open gain access to at Brill Publishing.



Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll .
Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Researches .
University of Copenhagen .
Phone: +45 26 81 85 19 .

Press officer Carsten Munk Hansen .
University of Copenhagen .
Phone: + 45 28 75 80 23 .

Mail: .

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