Surgery, oldschool


Here’s a 2nd-4th century Roman silver scalpel. It’s interesting that it’s made from silver, because silver is naturally antiseptic, which makes it an excellent metal for surgical tools in an era where surgical hygiene was pretty much unheard of. The Romans probably learned about silver’s unique properties from the Greeks.

2nd-4th Century AD Roman Silver Scalpel

2nd-4th Century AD Roman Silver Scalpel

The patina has worn off a bit around the center, due to handling, but that’s alright, it just exposes the silver underneath. Otherwise, it almost looks bronze.

2nd-4th century AD Roman scalpel tip, made of silver

2nd-4th century AD Roman scalpel tip, made of silver

Zooming in on the tip, you can see that it’s flat, and still fairly sharp. It’s not cutting sharp, of course, but it ain’t bad for 1700 years old. I’m hardly an expert on roman surgical instruments, but all of the other roman scalpels I’ve seen (three) had stubbier, broader, triangular tips, almost like miniature arrowheads. Perhaps that suggests this one was intended for precision work with it’s longer, narrower blade, and finer tip.

I need to find some early Greek surgical instruments to compare with this one.

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