A Small Roman Bronze Cyathiscomele, Roman Imperial Period, ca. 1st century CE
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This instrument consists of a long thin handle with a narrow leaf-shaped spoon on one end and an olivary probe on the other, indicating its multi-functionality.
For pharmaceutical purposes the spoon was used to remove medicines from their flasks, explaining the many different sizes of the spoon and handle. It might have been used to mix ointments as well. For surgery Milne suggests it might have been used as a curette (1907: 62). There is also the possibility that it was applied in lithotomy operations to help remove stones from the urethra (Jackson 1994b: 181; Milne 1907: 62) and as cauteries to remove unhealthy tissue or bone (Braadbaart 1994: 54; Künzl 1983: 25-6; Milne 1907: 116-20). The olivary ends could be used in pharmaceutical procedures to mix ointments. It was also possible to use it to create a drip effect much like a modern eye-dropper by placing a piece of cloth soaked in a liquid medicament above the olivary end, and squeezing the cloth so that the ointment would slide down over the termination and drip onto the area in need of the medicine. As a surgical implement the olivary end could be used to explore fistula (Cels. 5. 28. 12 C) and for examining carious bone (Cels. 8. 2. 3).
Dimensions: Length: 5 inches (12.7 cm)
Condition: Complete, probe shows signs of rejoining but otherwise in very good condition overall.
Provenance: Private Maryland collection, acquired from the trade in 2005 and previously in a private IL collection.