Art and science Tre medical instruments: A. Cautery-Knife / B. & C.: Sharp hooks (Probably Roman period)

study – diligence: George Damianos
creation plans: Art and science
design material: brass
artist’s: Nikos and  Panos
dimensions:A.: 17cm B. & C.: 14,5cm
edition year: 2016
prototype year: Probably Roman period
based on: National Archaeological museum, Athens
copyright all over the world: Art and science

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Cautery-Knife Probably Roman period

A unique work of art  or any seeking a connection with the history of the Human Mind. Brass construction. During antiquity, physicians used the blade of this instrument to cut as well as to cauterize a wound, ie, to apply very high heat locally, with the end goal of stopping the bleeding and destroying the pathological tissues of ulcers, fistulas, tumors and dermatoses Galen (xiv.786) mentions that when removing tumors, some physicians would use razor blades that simultaneously cut and cauterized.

Such a sample is exposed to Athens, National Archaeological Museum,

A knife consists of a crescent shaped blade and a rectangular elongated handle .The blade ends in a stylized open-mouthed snake head. Only one of the sides of the knife is curved. The construction is distinguished for its accuracy and form.


Τhe blade was largely used by physicians who cauterize and cut a wound. The application of extreme heat locally was a way to avoid further infections. Galen (xiv.786) mentions that when removing tumours, some physicians would use razor blades that simultaneously cut and cauterized.
The use of the open mouthed snake eye head was very common in decoration of medical instruments, after had been globbaly used as the symbol of medicin.The unique abillity of the snake to discard its old skin has an immence relationship with the idea of the earth rebirth. This aspect was enriched by the abillity to use its poison for its therapeutical qualities..Snake became the symbol of Asklepios, and was depicted largely in art, always beside the ancient god with all the knowledge of the humman existence.

art and science 57 B. & C. Sharp hooks

Perhaps the most elegant tool, actual artwork could keep on hand the doctor at any time if he lived. Verification of Thucydides: “a daily source of pleasure and helps to banish the spleen;”

Such a sample is exposed to Athens, National Archaeological Museum.


Sharp hooks were used by physicians to immobilize the edges of wounds, tissue sections, blood vessels, et al. They were also used to hold flesh together, as well as to raise up small pieces of tissue for excision, as, for example occurs when removing tonsils, where the hook was used to drag them outward, art and science 56before they were excised (Paul of Aegina VI., xxx).

  1. Hygeia, museum of cycladic art
  2. Boudon-Millot, Véronique, Alessia Guardasole, and Caroline Magdelaine, eds. La science médicale antique: Nouveaux regards; études réunies en l’honneur de Jacques Jouanna. Paris: Beauchesne, 2007.
  3. Michaelides, Demetrios, ed. Medicine and Healing in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Oxford: Oxbow, 2014.
  4. Nutton, Vivian. Ancient Medicine. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  5. Schwartz, S.I., J.E. Fischer, F. C. Spencer, G.T. Shires, and J.M. Daly. Principles of Surgery, 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998
  6. Scarborough, J. 1968. Roman Medicine and the Legions: A Reconsideration. Medical History 12: 254-61.



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