Medieval Surgery & Medicine

jpegFind out what your medieval ancestors thought the cause of disease was, why blood was let and what types of surgery were undertaken with everything from amputation to arrow extraction.

The 4 humours
We take a humourous look at the 4 humours, where talk attendees are invited to become the 4 humours of the body, blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm.  This was an ancient Greek and Roman idea still used in medieval times which stated that the body was made of these 4 liquids.  When they were in balance the person was healthy, when they were out of balance the person would be poorly.  We study how the humours were tied to the 4 elements and the 4 seasons.  (This part of the workshop requires 6 mobile participants, who are good sports and able to stand for about 15-20 minutes, whilst holding various objects).   Chairs could be arranged to sit on but standing would be preferable.

leech2-2Blood letting & purging
Bleeding was hugely popular from Roman times into the 19th Century.  It was one of the ways that humours could be balanced and was thought to be a cure all.  Barber surgeons were often the people carrying out this role.  Bleeding could be done with knife and bowl, via cupping glasses or with leeches.  We bring along some live medical leeches to show.  Purging (enemas) was another way to clear the body of an unwanted humour.

urineChartPhysician or wisewoman?
We present a skit about the differences between a medieval physician and a wise woman.   The physician has been to university and studied all the great medical writers such as Hippocrates and Galen.  He uses astrology to work out what ails a patient and closely studies examples of their urine.  The wise womans medicine is learnt through generations of use and practical knowledge what herbs work but may also contain many charms and much folklore.  Who will your audience decide as medieval people that they would like to visit?

surgery-055Medieval surgery
Find out what surgery was like in a time before anaesthetics and antibiotics.  We can look at various surgical procedures such as amputation, tooth pulling, arrow pulling etc.  We have a replica of the famous arrow extractor , invented by John Bradmore and used on the future King Henry V after he received an arrow in the face at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, whilst he was still only 16.

There is time at the end of the talk for questions and to look at the replica artefacts that we bring.