August 13, 2005


The medical world of medieval monks (Jane Elliott, 8/06/05, BBC News)

Anaesthetics and disinfectants are thought to be a modern medical invention but evidence is coming to light that medieval doctors knew of them too.

Evidence found at the ancient Soutra Hospital site, in Scotland, suggests the medieval Augustine monks also knew how to amputate limbs, fashion surgical instruments, induce birth, stop scurvy and even create hangover cures.

The excavations at Soutra have also unearthed fragments of pottery vessels that were once used for storing medicines such as an analgesic salve made from opium and grease and treatment for parasitic and intestinal worms.

Dressings have also been found, some still with salves or human tissues attached and the scientists have discovered a mixture of Quicklime (calcium oxide) which scientists believe was used as a disinfectant and a deodorant.

Sooner or later modernity will discover something worthwhile, but don't hold your breath.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 13, 2005 10:23 AM


It's amazing to me that you can make comments like that over the INTERNET!

Posted by: Brandon at August 13, 2005 11:21 AM

It's lucky for The Wife that he can, otherwise she'd never get him home from the coffee house.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 13, 2005 11:27 AM


You're not honestly saying that coffee house gossip is the same as a library/communication/commerce platform of global reach, are you? Please tell me I'm taking you too seriously.

Posted by: Brandon at August 13, 2005 11:42 AM


No, the coffee house was superior, because more social.

Posted by: oj at August 13, 2005 11:49 AM


So the important thing is for people to hang around together gossiping, not to transmit information? So radios are inferior to Pony Express riders?

Posted by: Brandon at August 13, 2005 12:03 PM

Which we strive mightily to recreate on the Web, with mixed success.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 13, 2005 12:05 PM


Joe is right. We here strive mightily to combine the transfer of information with the camaraderie of a busy social club. So, now that we have informed you that Julia and Eric Roberts are the same person, how's it hangin'?

Posted by: Peter B at August 13, 2005 12:58 PM

Actually Eric Roberts, Julia Roberts and [********] are all the same person. You have to be really careful about the Internet, most of what you read there is just plain wrong.

[edited for blasphemy]

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 13, 2005 1:11 PM

medieval Augustine monks also knew how to amputate limbs

Gee, I can amputate a limb. This is pretty basic stuff. So the Middle Ages were a golden age of medicine, and we moderns are wallowing in the darkness of superstition, what with our MRI scans and organ transplants and all. How does your thesis go down with Dr. Judd?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 13, 2005 2:17 PM

Let's give the medievals some credit here. If they thought you were a witch, they knew how to get rid of the affliction.

Posted by: AllenS at August 13, 2005 2:26 PM


If you were a witch.

Posted by: oj at August 13, 2005 3:26 PM

Those medieval monks were pretty good at anaesthetics. Benedictine and Christian Brothers come to mind.

Posted by: jdkelly at August 13, 2005 3:28 PM


No one knows better than doctors how little difference all that junk makes. We've improved caloric intake and hygeine, the rest is illusion.

Posted by: oj at August 13, 2005 3:41 PM


That's why we Canadians are on the cutting edge. Our healthcare doesn't bother much with MRIs 'n stuff like that. Covers amputations and grease-based anaesthetics, though.

Posted by: Peter B at August 13, 2005 4:18 PM


Illusion? Neither I, nor my sons would have lived past age 11 had we lived in any time period other than the late 20th century. Go an neo-natal intensive care unit and tell them that all they do is an illusion.

Posted by: Brandon at August 13, 2005 4:43 PM

Burn witches, shoot Communists--whats the problem?

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 13, 2005 7:39 PM

Yeah, but they did not know about washing thier hands.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 13, 2005 8:33 PM

If they knew all this back then, then how come it disappeared from knowledge for centuries?

Ancient Rome had fairly effective sanitation, but that didn't stop them from being massively depopulated several times from epidemics. Same thing happened in the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

But modern science seems to have done a good job at stopping that.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at August 15, 2005 2:06 PM