2,700-Year-Old Cuneiform Tablets From Mesopotamia Describe The Magic Behind How A Doctor Cured His Patients

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A series of 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, known as the cradle of civilization, have emerged and described the magic behind how a trainee doctor named Kisir-Aššur once cured his patients during the 7th century BC.

As the Daily Mail reports, the clay tablets were discovered in the ancient city of Ashur, which is today located in the north of Iraq. Thanks to Danish PhD student Dr. Troels Pank Arbøll, scientists are now learning more about how ancient doctors and medicines worked thousands of years ago at the dawn of civilization.

In the case of Kisir-Aššur’s cuneiform tablets, scientists have learned that this doctor would have dispensed a mix of both medicine and magic to his patients 2,700 years ago. Because of how detailed the clay tablets are, researchers have noted that these documents may very well hold more medical information than any other ancient texts that have been recovered so far.

Fortunately for researchers, the doctor Kisir-Aššur was a very logical man and documented all of the skills that he acquired in chronological order, which makes the cuneiform tablets much easier to follow.

As Dr. Arbøll explained, “The sources give a unique insight into how an Assyrian doctor was trained in the art of diagnosing and treating illnesses, and their causes. It’s an insight into some of the earliest examples of what we can describe as science.”

As Dr. Arbøll also noted, the Mesopotamian doctor’s clay tablets have demonstrated that while magic would certainly have been utilized in some sense, Kisir-Aššur was also very familiar with medicines derived from plants, and that he would actively study his patients who had been bitten or stung by different creatures.

“He does not work simply with religious rituals, but also with plant-based medical treatments. It is possible that he studied the effects of venom from scorpions and snakes on the human body and that he perhaps tried to draw conclusions based on his observations.”

While this doctor lived centuries before Hippocrates was born, the two shared some surprisingly similar beliefs in medicine. For instance, in the 2,700-year-old clay tablet, Kisir-Aššur described how potentially dangerous bile could be to humans.

According to these cuneiform texts, basic medical treatments in ancient Mesopotamia would have included bandages like today, along with potions, poultices, and enemas. However, for patients who had spiritual problems that needed addressing, this good doctor would have performed incantations and offered up prayers to different gods and goddesses in an attempt to heal whatever spiritual ailment was affecting his patient.

When dealing with non-medical and spiritual issues, some of the instructions written onto the texts of the cuneiform suggested ideas like “twining specific hairs and string a number of stones onto the string of hairs, (and) tie this ‘amulet’ to various body parts.”

The 2,700-year-old clay tablets from Ashur in Iraq were held in the personal family library of doctor Kisir-Aššur until the city was destroyed in 614 BC, and scientists are now studying these texts thoroughly to learn more about the healing techniques that were practiced in ancient times.