Medical equipment and vessels found during archeological excavations

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The equipment, tools and vessels used for medical purposes which have been discovered during archeological excavations are significant for the history of Georgian Medicine.

Such materials from prehistoric times (Paleolithic, Eneolithic era)have not been found on the territory of Georgia. However, some researchers believe that obsidian knives may have been successfully used for surgical practices. With respect to some tools and vessels   from the middle of the second millennium BC,it can be said  with conviction that they were used for medical purposes. Scalpels (G. Narimanashvili, R. Shengelia), bronze knifes, tweezers, instruments for blood release and more have been found in grave fields of this period. The study of these objects gives grounds for identifying them as tools used in medical, namely, surgical practices.

P. Pirpilashvili researched the objects found during archeological excavations, which are preserved in the national museum of Georgia, and expressed the opinion that they may have been used for household as well as surgical purposes.

This era – classic bronze –is a period when copper was alloyed with tin, which unlike arsenical bronze, does not contain hazardous components. Therefore, the abovementioned instruments could have been used for surgical purposes. The usage of a bronze knife for carrying out operations, is confirmed by Mesopotamian and Egyptian written sources and archeological materials. Namely, the study of bones, and trephined skulls showed that the surgical practices were fairly developed at that time. The form of the hole and the processing of its edges imply the existence of refined surgical instruments.

As evidenced by ethnographical materials, Khevsurian and Svan People undertook surgical practices with steel instruments made by local blacksmith (M. Shengelia, N. Mindadze, R. Shengelia). Multiple glass vessels were found in some grave fields in Mtskheta. Some of them were used for storage and preparation of medicine. The big number of such vessels is noteworthy. The researchers of the history of medicine believe that these grave fields belonged to doctors or producers of medicine, which indicates that these activities were perceived as a profession and carried a special social status.

The existence of separate vessels for medicine is specified in the myth about Argonauts, where Medea gathered Prometheus grass sap in Caspian shell. The clay vessels of different sizes and shapes with the image of a snake and a numerous shells were found in the grave fields of II-I millennium BC. The latter was used for squashing medicine.  Small grinders, double bottom jugs and extractors have also been discovered. According to the ethnographical materials, Georgian people used clay and cast iron vessels for the preparation and wood and horn vessels for the storage of medicine.

A hand scale and small masses, dating back to I-III centuries, were found in Mtskheta along with glass flask, liquid medicine and dosing equipment, which indicates that pharmaceutical practices were already quite developed at that time.

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