'History of Science, Medicine, and Technology' Seminar

'Medicine in Ancient Assur: outlining the career of a healer from the 7th century BCE'

Troels Arboll (University of Oxford)

In the middle of the 7th century BCE, a young man by the name of Kisir-Ashur trained to become a healer in the city Assur, located in the northern part of modern-day Iraq. As a member of a reputable family of “exorcists” (Akkadian ashipu), Kisir-Ashur had access to significant scholarly knowledge based on written traditions stretching back into the second millennium BCE. At least 73 manuscripts from his family’s massive library contain Kisir-Ashur’s name in the colophons, a subscript at the end of the text providing various information about the copyist and the contents. Due to this amount of written material from Kisir-Ashur’s own time, he is one of the earliest healers in world history for whom we have significant details pertaining to his career. My study of Kisir-Ashur’s medical manuscripts was recently published in a monograph entitled Medicine in Ancient Assur (available with open access). In this presentation I will outline my analysis of Kisir-Ashur’s education and practice in order to discuss various aspects of medicine in ancient Mesopotamia.   

The seminar in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology is convened by Alex Aylward (University of Oxford), Erica Charters (Wolfson College), Mark Harrison (University of Oxford), Catherine Jackson (Harris Manchester College), and Sloan Mahone (University of Oxford)