1st century AD
Greek, Etruscan, & Roman Bronzes (MFA), no. 637; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 127 (additional published references).
Length: 16 cm (6 5/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This medical instrument features a spatula at one end of its shaft and an ovular probe, or puren, at the other. This type of spatula is known as the “lancet” type due to the shape of the flat spatula. Greek and Latin authors refer to this instrument as a spathomele. Light green patina.
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.
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
Gift of Edward Perry Warren