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Medicine Through Time
GCSE History…read more

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· We can learn about prehistoric medicine from archaeological evidence (cave
paintings) and studying modern nomadic tribes.
· Thought diseases were caused by evil spirits. `Shamans' (medicine men)
were thought to ward them away. They wore animal masks to differentiate
themselves from the other tribe members.
· Many rituals and sacrifices were used to heal the unexplained.
· Trephining was used to release evil spirits from the brain with flint knives.
Sometimes pressure was relieved on the brain and the skull healed.
· Women in the villages knew herbal remedies.
· Wounds could be covered in animal fat and broken bones could be set with
· They were nomadic so could move to where food was abundant. They were
· Bodies of deceased were sometimes taken when the tribe moved. Remains of
bones in Britain are often mixed up. Some tribes may have created tombs to
bury their dead.
· Fine and delicate tools made of stone suggest surgery was possible.
· Gatherings such as at Stonehenge allowed the sharing of ideas.
· Medical progress was slow as there was no writing.…read more

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Egyptians 3000BC ­ 1000BC
· Many trade links with India, China and parts of Africa allowing exchange of
herbal remedies and ideas. E.g. Malachite for eye infections. Animals were
often used as remedies. Drugs such as opium were used thought to drive evil
spirits away.
· Development of Papyrus paper meant treatments and remedies could be
recorded and used again. Certain illnesses had names and could be diagnosed.
· Embalmment led to increased anatomical knowledge. Organs were taken out
and preserved. Dissection was not allowed as they did not believe in destroying
the body of a deceased person ­ they would need it in the afterlife.
· Focus on the Nile and agriculture influenced a theory of the body having
channels similar to the river and if these became blocked, the body would
become ill, just as if the tributaries became blocked, the crops would fail.
· They were aware of the heart, liver, intestine and brain but no other organs,
and they knew where the pulse could be felt.
· Spiritual charms were still used such as bathing in sacred water and sleeping in
a `sanatorium' where the Gods would heal. Imhoteph ­ God of Healing.
· They sometimes purged themselves to cure blockages in the bowels.
· They believed in washing daily, wearing newly washed linen, practising
circumcision and shaving the whole body every three days. This was not for
hygiene reasons but to be presentable for the Gods. Mosquito nets were used to
protect from insects. There were also some basic toilets…read more

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Greeks 1000BC ­ 500 AD
· Influenced by Egyptians.
· Believed in many Gods. Asclepius ­ God of Healing. His snake would
lick affected body parts and heal. His daughters - Hygeia [hygiene]
and Panacea [cure all]
· Asclepions were places of healing. There was an Abaton with roof but
no solid walls where patients slept in the open air, a stadium and
gymnasium for exercise and healthy lifestyle, trees for fresh air,
Temple of Artemis for praying, baths for keeping clean. Healthy eating
was encouraged.
· The Greeks liked finding explanations for things. They were rational
and logical. Anaximander came up with the four elements ­ fire,
water, earth and wind. Pythagoras devised the theory of balance of
· Herbal remedies were used by women.
· They were beginning to be allowed to study medicine after Hagnodice
pretended to be a man so she could become a doctor.
· War helped doctors improve their methods of healing wounds.
· They used vinegar and wine soaked bandages to cover wounds to stop
dirt entering.
· Surgery was risky and generally avoided but they would set broken
bones and could amputate if needed. A range of surgical instruments
were developed such as scalpels, forceps, hooks, and probes made
from iron, steel and brass.
· Some eye operations were documented, possibly to remove cataracts…read more

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· Hippocrates is known as the founding father of
medicine. The Hippocratic oath is still said by doctors
to swear they will maintain the highest standards
· He believed in Diagnosis, Prognosis, Observation and
· He began to move away from the spiritual treatments
and focused more on practical methods.
· He came up with the theory of the four humours,
claiming they must be in balance to be healthy.
· Aristotle later linked these with fluids in the body and
the four seasons: Yellow Bile(Summer+Fire), Black
Bile(Autumn+Earth), Phlegm(Winter+Water) and
Blood(Spring+Air). He thought the symptoms of
disease were actually the causes.
· Treatments were focused on balancing these humours
such as blood letting.…read more

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Alexandria, Egypt
· Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great
(tutored by Aristotle) in 331 BC.
· It became famous for training medics such as
Herophilus who made vital discoveries about the
stomach and brain.
· The Greeks had built a university and library there,
with books by writers from places such as India,
China, Egypt and Mesopotamia.
· Eristratus, who also trained there, identified the
difference between the arteries, veins and nerves and
saw the nerves were not hollow and did not contain
· Medical students from all around the Mediterranean
travelled to Alexandria to exchange ideas including
Galen.…read more

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