About the project

NinMed is funded by a Wellcome Research Resources Grant, with the title "Introducing Assyrian Medicine: healthcare fit for a king" (220149/Z/20/Z), 2020-2023.

NinMed makes available for the first time the world's most standardised, structured and systematised corpus of medical literature prior to Galen: the "Nineveh Medical Encyclopaedia" from the library of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria (669-c.630 BC). This was the culmination of many centuries of medical research, codified into a highly-structured compendium. Its broken condition and its use of cuneiform script mean that, almost 200 years after its discovery, still only glimpses of its content are accessible to medical historians. The importance of Assyria's contribution to the history of medicine remains unrecognised.

Fragments of Ashurbanipal's medical library have been known since mid-19th century. But the existence of the Encyclopaedia has only recently been recognised thanks to the reconstruction and translation of an ancient catalogue from Ashur. This discovery allows us now to reconstruct the whole Encyclopaedia from its broken fragments and translate it in full. We will then generate a complete index of drug names and technical vocabulary as found in the compendium, and correlate them against the symptoms they were designed to treat.

fragments of medical tablets

Fragments of medical tablets from Nineveh. K2448+ [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_K-2448], K 10419 [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_K-10419], K 13235 [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_K-13235]. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 [https://www.britishmuseum.org/terms-use/copyright-and-permissions]

As well as reconstructing the Encyclopaedia, we will compile a pharmacopeia, indexing all the plants and substances used, together with the procedures for applying them. We will add crucial data from other texts, such as the Assyrian herbal, Uruanna (which lists plants, minerals and insects with medicinal application) or Shammu Shikinshu (which describes the physical appearance of the plants). We will also draw from royal court correspondence, which shows how medical knowledge was applied in practice at the Assyrian capital. This lexicon will stimulate future research both into the nature of Assyrian medicine itself and into its connections with Greek and other ancient medical traditions.

NinMed benefits from resources developed by the Ashurbanipal Library Project [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/asbp/], and the BabMed project.

The project team

Jon Taylor

Dr Jon Taylor: PI, British Museum

Mark Geller

Prof. Mark Geller: Project partner (UCL)

Irving Finkel

Dr Irving Finkel: Project advisor, British Museum

Strahil Panayotov

Dr Strahil Panayotov: Project Curator, British Museum

Krisztian Simko

Dr Krisztián Simkó: Project Curator, British Museum

The project's work benefits from discussion within a working group. The working group consists of the project team plus the following colleagues:

We would also like to thank the following colleagues for their help and contributions:

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor, 'About the project', The Nineveh Medical Project, The Nineveh Medical Project, Department of the Middle East, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, 2022 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/asbp/NinMed/project/]

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