History of sickness and medical art 10: ancient Mesopotamia 2



< myrrh: Painkiller, preservative of the mummy  >


We look at Mesopotamia from B.C. 3 millennium of the civilization birth to the middle of B.C. 1 millennium.




 Fertile Crescent    

< Fertile Crescent    >

 Great Ziggurat of Ur: a ruin of shrine at about the 21st century BC

< Great Ziggurat of Ur: a ruin of shrine at about the 21st century BC >


A nation managed the medical care, and the healer served the royal palace and the nation.

The classes of the healer were three grades, and their assigning tasks were fixed.

The top cleric diagnoses the patient, subsequently the exorcist drives off an evil spirit, and finally the doctor gives medicine.

The healer received education in a shrine and learned medicine from the clay tablet document.



医 師






a monster and a sun god of ancient Mesopotamia

< a monster and a sun god of ancient Mesopotamia >

The recognition of sickness

Although there was also the empiricism side, it was considered that most causes of sickness were the punishments of God or an evil spirit.

As for the medical treatment, incantations and prayers occupied important role.

People thought that there was a magical power to the medicine.

As for the important sickness, the plague or an epidemic was called by the name of each God.

The devil of epidemic had a form of a fly, because people recognized that the fly carry the sickness that roused violently in summer.










< cure >


The healer used the longtime medicine manual for diagnosis of tuberculosis, jaundice, etc., and was able to do it exactly.

However, in many cases, the healer diagnosed it by internal organs divination of the animal rather than examining a sick person.

The fortune-teller judged the patient’s sickness from the appearance of the liver of the slaughtered sheep.

The liver model of this photo is a priest’s guidance document.

The liver was full of blood and was considered to be the center of a life or a soul.

A model of the liver divination of the sheep: in Babylonia, the 19th century BC, made of clay

< A model of the liver divination of the sheep: in Babylonia, the 19th century BC, made of clay >


治 療








As general treatment, there were inunction, massage, tub bath, wet pack, enema, etc.

As for the surgical operation, they used it for an injury, a bone fracture, a cataract, a calculus, and an abscess.

Those days, for an operation, there were a scalpel of bronze, a saw, and a drill.

The dental treatment was prosperous; there were tooth extraction, anodyne for a toothache, and false tooth.







a dedication of sacrifice beast: in ruin of a shrine of Mali, about 2500 years BC 

< a dedication of sacrifice beast: in ruin of a shrine of Mali, about 2500 years BC >



As for medicine, they used 250 kinds of medicinal herbs, such as a decoction, powdered medicine, a fumigant, an enema, and a purgative, and 120 kinds of mineral medicine, such as an alum, copper, clay, and magnetic iron.

In many cases, the medicine was given at each time when was determined by the race of stars.

The best-known drug is a laurel, aloe, cannabis, cinnamon, castor oil, myrrh, mustard, and an olive etc.

The doctor used sulfur for sterilization of a skin disease, and the hemp for depression or neuralgia.


薬 剤






three wise man devoted myrrh, gold, and frankincense to Jesus.

< three wise man devoted myrrh, gold, and frankincense to Jesus.  >



Although the medical art of ancient Mesopotamia still had the limitations of a prayer and magic, there is accumulation of huge knowledge and it had arrived at the practical use region.

It affected the medicine of Egypt and Israel, Greece, India.

However, it will be delayed with the collapse of Assyria and the Babylonia Empire at the 6th century BC.

When the medicine of this ground came under the spotlight again, it was the birth of Arabic medicine after 1,000 years of it.












Categories: history+evolution, <english language, <japanese language, science, Series: History of sickness and medical art | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “History of sickness and medical art 10: ancient Mesopotamia 2

  1. Thank you for this GREAT article full of information and so nicely illustrated.
    All the best from the sunny coast of Norfolk
    Klausbernd 🙂

    • Thank you for commenting my article. Do you live in USA (the sunny coast of Norfolk)? I live in Awaji island, Japan.

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