- Topic 1: Prehistory
- Background info.
- Prehistoric man lived in nomadic lives
- They were hunter-gathers, they didn’t grow crops
- They left no written records, historians rely on archaeological evidence which may be hard to interpret
- One way round the problem of evidence for prehistoric medicine is to study people who, until very recently, lived in a similar way to prehistoric man. For example, Australian aborigines and Plains Indians
What did prehistoric people die from?
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Famine and food shortages
Using aboriginal cultures to find out about prehistoric medicine
- Attitudes and practises of modern aborigines are used in guessing what ancient people did.
- Some modern aboriginal medicine combines basic practical methods like settle broken bones and bandaging with spiritual explanations of illness and cure.
- Witch doctors, shamans and medicine men are credited with the ability to cure and inflict illness.
- Warding off evil is practised as well as driving off the evil. Rituals are often involved. Rituals involved herbs, potions and techniques of practical value – but seen as magic rather than medicine.
Natural Beliefs and Treatments
- Trephining is the cutting of holes in people’s heads. Skulls show that people survived the operation because the bone continued to grow afterwards. It may have been to allow evil spirits out or to grant special powers of communication with the spirit world.
- There were two types of healers, Medicine Men and women. Medicine Men were important people in prehistoric tribes, as they could deal with spirits.
- Women were in charge of everyday health and knew about the healing power of herbs. For every day ailments and injuries with an obvious cause, they had a range of simple, effective remedies based on observation and common sense.
Supernatural Beliefs and Treatments
- Prehistoric people thought that everyone own their own spirit and these explained why you became ill.
- You may feel ill if your spirit had been removed from your body or if an evil spirit had entered your body whilst you were sleeping.
- Prehistoric man wore lucky charms to keep away evil spirits and to stay free from disease.
- If you became ill, Medicine Men would try to find your stolen spirit by hunting for the pointing stick which removed your spirit. When they found it, they would throw it into water to set the spirit free.
- Background info.