This instrument consists of a long thin handle with a narrow leaf shaped spoon on one end and an olivary probe on the other, indicating its multifunctionality. For pharmaceutical purposes the spoon was used to remove medicines from their flasks, explaining the many different sizes of the spoon and handle. It might have been used to mix ointments as well. For surgery Milne suggests it might have been used as a curette (1907: 62). There is also the possibility that it was applied in lithotomy operations to help remove stones from the urethra (Jackson 1994b: 181; Milne 1907: 62) and as cauteries to remove unhealthy tissue or bone (Braadbaart 1994: 54; KŸnzl 1983: 25-6; Milne 1907: 116-20). The olivary ends could be used in pharmaceutical procedures to mix ointments. It was also possible to use it to create a drip effect much like a modern eye-dropper by placing a piece of cloth soaked in a liquid medicament above the olivary end, and squeezing the cloth so that the ointment would slide down over the termination and drip onto the area in need of the medicine. As a surgical implement the olivary end could be used to explore fistula (Cels. 5. 28. 12 C) and for examining carious bone (Cels. 8. 2. 3).
Reference: Milne, J. 1907. "Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times". Oxford.
Jackson, R. 1996. Eye Medicine in the Roman Empire. Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt. II. 37. 3. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 2,228-51.
Braadbaart, S. 1994. Romeinse Medische Instrumenten, Geschiedenis der Geneeskunde, 1(5): 51-5.
KŸnzl, E. 1983. Medizinische Instrumente aus Sepulkralfunden der ršmischen Kaiserzeit. Cologne: Rheinland Verlag GmbH.
Celsus. De Medicina. W. G. Spencer (Trans.) 1971. (Loeb). Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press and William Heinemann Ltd.
Dimensions:Length: 7 in (18 cm)
Condition:Intact and in excellent condition overall
Provenance:Private Maryland collection, acquired from the Dutch art market in April, 2002 and previously in a private European collection.