Regional connections

The origins of the Nineveh Medical Encyclopaedia can be traced back to the beginnings of the second millennium BCE. And the medical practices and cures contained within it resonate beyond the time of Alexander the Great. The cuneiform medical material draws a stunning picture of how healthcare practices and medical knowledge was transmitted until it reached its final shape in the version known from the Royal Library of Nineveh.

The Nineveh Medical Encyclopaedia records medical data used throughout Mesopotamia. However, we can recognise prescriptions and incantations from the Encyclopaedia in Syria and Turkey. Medical motifs recorded in the Encyclopaedia were also used in ancient Egypt, on the Greek coast, and even appear in distant Rome. This is no surprise, since these areas were in constant trade-cultural exchange with Mesopotamia and surrounding regions. In fact, the data suggest that common medicinal practices and medications were spread across the Fertile Crescent, and also manifested themselves in later Greco-Roman and Aramaic medical writings. Drugs were travelling as a commodity, and doctors were dispatched by kings for the service of other rulers. Cuneiform texts demonstrate translations of drug names in different languages from Iran to Egypt. The result is that healing in the ancient world had more global features than local differences. Think of Europe nowadays, for example: no matter how diverse its population and languages are, common medicinal practices and drugs are used everywhere.

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Zaccagnini, C. 1983 "Patterns of Mobility among Ancient near Eastern Craftsmen", in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 42: 245–264

Strahil V. Panayotov

Strahil V. Panayotov, 'Regional connections', The Nineveh Medical Project, The Nineveh Medical Project, Department of the Middle East, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, 2022 []

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Released under a Creative Commons BY-SA license, 2013.