Surgical instrument

Imperial Period
1st-early 3rd century A.D.

Catalogue Raisonné

Greek, Etruscan, & Roman Bronzes (MFA), no. 632; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 127 (additional published references).


Length: 14.9 cm (5 7/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Gallery 212A-B


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This medical instrument features a spatula at one end of its shaft and an ovular probe, or puren, at the other.This type has been dubbed the “Fish” Type spatula due to the flaring at the base of the flat end. Greek and Latin authors refer to this instrument as a spathomele.

A multi-purpose tool frequently found in both surgical kits and domestic contexts. In domestic contexts it was used in the application of cosmetics. When used by a physician the spathomele served a variety of functions. The puren was used to grind material medica and either end of the tool was effective for mixing and applying medica. The spatula itself could be used as a guide for a scapel, a guard for vulnerable areas that needed protecting during operations, and a tongue depressor. Either end could also be heated and used for cauterization.

Light green patina.


By date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Bought in Rome.); gift of Edward Perry Warren to MFA, January 2, 1913

Credit Line

Gift of Edward Perry Warren