Babylonian Medicine

Freie Universität Berlin

Excavated latrines reveal information on parasites and diet in the Ancient Near East and Medieval Europe

Through a novel approach of shotgun DNA sequencing, a group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen has analysed the content of excavated human feces from Denmark, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Jordan and Bahrain. The only antique samples were those from Bahrain (5-400 B.C.E.). All others date from the 7th century C.E. to as late as the 19th century C.E.

The study served not only as an indicator as to which parasites humans in the past suffered from but also to their diet and the animal exploitation history of people in the areas relevant to the study.

The article is freely available through this link:


Drug use in the ancient Near East

The Science magazine has published an article on recent residue analyses that suggest the use of psychoactive drugs in the ancient Near East such as opium and cannabis. While there is of course a good chance that these drugs were used in a ritualistic context, a medical use seems to be just as likely.

Hans Sloane Lecture 2019 with Markham J. Geller

The Hans Sloane Lecture 2019 will be given by BabMed PI Markham J. Geller exactly one year from now. The event is hosted by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London and named after Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish physician and philantropist who was born on April 16th 1660.

The lecture’s venue is the Apothecaries’ Hall in London, Back Friars Lane EC4V 6EJ. Entry is free and beginning is at 6:00pm, 16th of April 2019.

Please see the attached flyer for further information.

Hans Sloane Lecture 2019

Troels Arbøll, Copenhagen, on how to become a Mesopotamian doctor: the case study of Kisir-Ashur.

In his PhD thesis, Troels Arbøll, Univ. of Copenhagen, retraces the making of a doctor in Mesopotamia. He analyses the notes and writings of a healer called Kisir-Ashur at the end of the seventh century BCE.
More about his findings is given in an article at ScienceNordic, a Scandinavian online magazine on scientific research.


A brief quote taken from the contibution:

“It’s a snapshot of history that is difficult to generalise and it is possible that Kisir-Ashur worked with the material in a slightly different way than other practising healers. Kisir-Ashur copied and recorded mostly pre-existing treatments and you can see that he catalogues knowledge and collects it with a specific goal,” says Arbøll.

For [Nils P.] Heeßel [Univ. Marburg], this is the most exciting part of the thesis.

“It’s a great piece of work and for me this micro-history of the ancient Near East is the most interesting aspect of the thesis. It’s never been done before and I’m glad to see this concept used on our limited material in the region,” he writes.


AOAT 447 by András Bácskay – Therapeutic Prescriptions against Fever in Ancient Mesopotamia

Therapeutic Prescriptions against Fever in Ancient Mesopotamia – Volume 447 of AOAT is available now. András Bácskay of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Budapest offers transliterations, translations and philological notes for fever-related Assyrian and Babylonian therapeutic texts.

Please see the Ugarit-Verlag webpage for further information.





Call for Papers: Rome Conference on Religions and Medicine

Religions and Medicine: From Antiquity to Contemporary Age
June 5-9, 2018
Velletri (Rome)


Call for Papers
In the contemporary Western world, medicine constitutes a specific branch of knowledge, with its own characteristics and methods of cure and research, and it’s tendentially autonomous, not linked with religious or folklore beliefs, even though there are still some contacts, reciprocal influences and conflicts. In the past, however, these spheres were more reciprocally interconnected than it appears to us nowadays. The conference aims to investigate this interconnection in a multi-disciplinary perspective, as regards both medical procedures and the definition of human body.

In particular, the speakers may develop in their papers the following points:

  1. The formation of the concept of “medical science” as a specific and autonomous field compared to traditional and religious knowledge.
  2. The dialectics between medical practice and religious beliefs in relation to: a) the conception of human body;  b) the definition of “illness”;  c) healing activities;  d) the definition of the characteristics of a “healer”;  e) the definition of the characteristics of a “healing site”.  The history of studies on the matter.

The conference is articulated into five research areas:

  1. Egypt and Ancient Near East (coordinator: Maria Erica Couto-Ferreira – University of Heidelberg)
  1. Classical Antiquity (coordinator: Claudia Santi – Università della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”)
  1. Middle Ages (coordinator: Lidia Capo – Sapienza Università di Roma)
  2. Modern Era (coordinator: Marina Caffiero – Sapienza Università di Roma)
  3. Contemporary Era (coordinator: Emanuela Claudia Del Re – National coordinator of the Sociology of Religion Section of the Italian Sociology Association)

Administration: Igor Baglioni (Museo delle Religioni “Raffaele Pettazzoni”)

The scholars who would like to contribute may send a one-page abstract (max 2.000 characters) to Igor Baglioni ( by April 1, 2018.

Attached to the abstract should be: the title of the paper; the chosen area; a short biography of the authors; email address and phone number.

Papers may be written and presented in English, French, Italian and Spanish.

The acceptance of papers will be communicated (by email) only to the selected contributors by 2018, April 10.

Please send the complete paper by email not later than May 25. The delivery of the paper is required to participate in the conference.

There is no attendance fee. The participants who don’t live in Rome or surroundings will be accommodated in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts which have an agreement with the Museo delle Religioni “Raffaele Pettazzoni” to offer discounted prices. Papers may be published on Religio. Collana di Studi del Museo delle Religioni “Raffaele Pettazzoni” (Edizioni Quasar), and in specialized journals. All the papers will be peer-reviewed. The conference will be associated with the cultural event “Vento d’Estate ai Castelli Romani” organized by Consorzio SBCR – Sistema Biblioteche dei Castelli Romani and by Fondazione Cultura Castelli Romani. The conference participants will be invited each evening by a different town in the Castelli Romani area and will be offered the opportunity to visit the town, taste local food, see shows, and participate for free in guided tours to local museums and monuments. The excursion programme will be presented at the same time as the conference programme.


For information:

Download call for papers:

Markham J. Geller in Spektrum der Wissenschaft

The latest issue of Spektrum der Wissenschaft features an article on BabMed focused on the project PI Markham J. Geller. It is titled “Mit dem Herzen denken” (thinking with the heart) and gives an insightful overview on the understanding of human anatomy in the ancient Near East as it can be deducted from the medical cuneiform texts.

Helsinki Workshop ‘Ancient Digital Humanities’, March 6, 2018

In recent years, a growing number of scholars of ancient history have started to explore the possibilities offered by digital humanities. The workshop “Ancient Digital Humanities” aims to accelerate these developments and enter into the conversation already in progress in the larger field of history. The session brings together leading scholars who apply computational methods to the study of ancient history, culture, and literature.


Ancient Digital Humanities Workshop (Helsinki, 6 March 2018)
Venue: University of Helsinki, Porthania building (Yliopistonkatu 3, Helsinki)

convened by: Tero Alstola, University of Helsinki

Melanie Groß, Leiden University: An Open Access Database: the “Prosopography of Babylonia”
Tuukka Kauhanen, University of Helsinki: Editing the Septuagint with Digital Tools
Paulina Pikulska, University of Warsaw: The Dossier of Aquba’ – Local Businesswomen in the Neo-Babylonian Sippar
Johannes Bach, University of Helsinki: Narrativity, Structuralism and Digitalization
Anthony R. Meyer, University of Michigan: Digital Humanities and Discovery Learning: A Neatline Interactive Geospatial Exhibit of the Ancient World
Marja Vierros, University of Helsinki: Greek Documentary Papyri, Linguistics, and Digital Methods
Rodrigo Hernáiz, Philipps-Universität Marburg: Applications of Text Corpora for the Study of Ancient Languages: Akkadian Sociolinguistics
Tero Alstola, Heidi Jauhiainen, and Aleksi Sahala, University of Helsinki: Semantic Domains in Akkadian Texts


If you are interested in joining other programme units of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 2018 conference, please see the programme and register at

Call for Papers: 2018 meeting of EABS and SBL, Helsinki

For the 2018 meeting of EABS and SBL in Helsinki, Finland (July 30 – August 3) the convenors invite proposals for papers or for panel-sessions, preferably with a comparative perspective, on the theme “The ways of the amorites – magico-medical knowledge and practices among Jews and others in (Late) Antiquity”.

Please send any proposals and/or questions to the unit chairs BabMed-PI Markham J. Geller ( and BabMed-member Lennart Lehmhaus (

For further information, please see the SBL hompage.

Talk by J. Cale Johnson at the University of Bologna

“Archaic Texts and Early State Economies in Mesopotamia” is the title of a workshop at the Dipartimento Storia Culture Civiltà of the University of Bologna, where J. Cale Johnson, Deputy Head of BabMed, gives a talk about “Food, status and institutional mechanics in the Uruk IV-III texts” on February 15th, 2018.

Please see the department’s website for further information.