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Before 3000BC
Very little evidence remains. Some skulls and cave paintings have survived
Comparisons can be made with present day primitive societies e.g.
aboriginal life
Lived as nomads - hunter gatherers
No written language
Supernatural causes for unexplained events would have discouraged
investigation or experimentation so medical development would have
been slow
`A mixture of supernatural & natural'
Supernatural belief that spirits caused disease meant supernatural cures were
often used. Also simple remedies from herbs.…read more

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Trephining / trepanning to let out evil spirits. Re-growth of bones
suggests that some survived the operation.
Simple surgery such as encasing arms or legs in clay to repair
broken bones.
Possible that trances were used as an anaesthetic.
We know very little about public health in prehistoric medicine.
Not needed as there were no towns or large groups.
Fear of curses may have led them to bury human waste.…read more

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Settled to live around the river Nile, they grew crops and reared animals rather than
live as hunter-gatherers. This had a big impact on medicine.
They still believed in the power of spirits and gods but they also started to try to
understand and to control the world.
They developed a form of writing this meant they could pass knowledge on.…read more

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Belief in an afterlife led to
embalming. This provided them
with some knowledge of the
anatomy as soft internal organs
were taken out of the body.
However these organs were not
examined as they believed disease
was caused by spirits.
Minor operations, e.g. the cutting WAR
away of tumours and eye surgery. Sekhmet was the goddess of war. They believed
Willow bark was used as an she caused and cured epidemics.
antiseptic War led to new treatments for wounds.…read more

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The Ancient Greeks were seafarers and travelled around the Mediterranean. They learnt
from other cultures, especially the Egyptians.
Like the Egyptians they had many gods. They believed these controlled the world.
Greeks were rich enough for some people to have the leisure to think some were able to
devote their lives to science or religion.
Later Greeks began philosophy, `philosophers' were people who loved to think about the
world and try to explain it with their minds.…read more

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Inspired by Hippocrates of Cos some Greeks began to look for natural
explanations for illness and began to practise clinical observation, followed by
diagnosis and treatment.
Greek thinkers emphasised the idea of balance in all things including medicine.
They believed it was important to lead a balanced lifestyle; to eat in moderation, to
take exercise, to sleep regularly and to keep clean.
Their belief in the four humours (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile) was a
reflection of this idea of balance.…read more

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The Greeks traded across the Mediterranean, this enabled them to spread their
ideas and pick up new ones.
A huge library at the city of Alexandria in Egypt stored ideas on medicine.
Early public health systems were destroyed by earthquake & therefore could not
be copied.
Practical cures in Asklepia were carried out by the doctor/ priest.
Hippocrates was a very influential doctor at this time.
Doctors who followed the teachings of Hippocrates were recognised as doctors
not priests.…read more

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500BC- 500AD
After 500 BC the Romans began to build a large empire in Europe.
They used many Greek ideas about medicine and took some of them a step
The best doctors in Roman times came from Greece, the most famous was
The Romans were very practical.
They developed new technology and the government had the money and
power to enforce efficient public health systems.…read more

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Galen was extremely important in improving knowledge of the anatomy and
Operations on gladiators.
Surgeons carried out operations on the battlefield. In field hospitals wounds
would be cauterised and anything more serious would lead to amputation.
Remains of military hospitals and surgical tools have been found.
Religion allowed some dissection but mainly on animals.
Some human dissection was allowed at Alexandria but this was limited.
Romans were quick to adopt the ideas of their conquered peoples. E.g.…read more


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