Surgical instrument

Roman
Imperial Roman
1st century AD


Catalogue Raisonné

Greek, Etruscan, & Roman Bronzes (MFA), no. 637; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 127 (additional published references).

Dimensions

Length: 16 cm (6 5/16 in.)

Accession Number

13.168

Medium or Technique

Bronze

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

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 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.

Provenance

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