Medicine in Ancient Assur

A Microhistorical Study of the Neo-Assyrian Healer Kiṣir-Aššur


In Medicine in Ancient Assur Troels Pank Arbøll offers a microhistorical study of a single exorcist named Kiṣir-Aššur who practiced medical and magical healing in the ancient city of Assur (modern northern Iraq) in the 7th century BCE. The book provides the first detailed analysis of a healer’s education and practice in ancient Mesopotamia based on at least 73 texts assigned to specific stages of his career. By drawing on a microhistorical framework, the study aims at significantly improving our understanding of the functional aspects of texts in their specialist environment. Furthermore, the work situates Kiṣir-Aššur as one of the earliest healers in world history for whom we have such details pertaining to his career originating from his own time.
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Troels Pank Arbøll, Ph.D. (2017) in Assyriology from the University of Copenhagen, is a Postdoctoral Fellow at that university. He is currently engaged in research on Mesopotamian medicine, magic, and the transmission of knowledge in the ancient world.
List of Figures and Tables
Abbreviations and Symbols
Symbols and Further Abbreviations

 1.1 Colophons
 1.2 Mesopotamian Medicine
 1.3 Authorship
 1.4 Proof and Possibility
 1.5 Scope and Structure

Framework and Background
 2.1 Microhistory
 2.2 Framework
 2.3 Background for Studying Kiṣir-Aššur
 2.4 Quantifying and Contextualizing Kiṣir-Aššur’s Texts

Kiṣir-Aššur’s Magico-Medical Education as šamallû ṣeḫru
 3.1 Complex Diagnoses in Kiṣir-Aššur’s šamallû ṣeḫru Texts
 3.2 Principles Understood Through Examples
 3.3 The Head: BAM 9
 3.4 The “Strings” and “Inner” Body
 3.5 Snakes, Scorpions and Horses: A Discussion of RA 15 pl. 76
 3.6 Gaining an Understanding of Anatomy and Physiology
 3.7 Preparation for Other Duties as šamallû ṣeḫru
 3.8 Summary

Training in Anatomy and Physiology as šamallû ṣeḫru
 4.1 The Role of Venom in Kiṣir-Aššur’s Anatomical Understanding
 4.2 Veterinarian Knowledge in Kiṣir-Aššur’s Education
 4.3 Excursus: Animal Variants of Human Illnesses
 4.4 Animal and Human Physiology: The Reverse of RA 15 pl. 76
 4.5 Summary

Further Apprenticeship: šamallû to mašmaššu ṣeḫru
 5.2 The šamallû mašmaššu ṣeḫru-phase
 5.3 The mašmaššu ṣeḫru-phase
 5.4 Excursus: The ša Nabû tuklassu-phrase
 5.5 Summary

Kiṣir-Aššur’s mašmaššu-phase
 6.1 Texts with Colophons Including the Title mašmaššu
 6.2 Making House Calls: Discussion of KAR 230
 6.3 Ritually Protecting the Houses of Clients: Discussion of KAR 298
 6.4 Namburbi-rituals and House Calls: KAL 4 no. 7 and LKA 115
 6.5 Other Technical Literature: CT 37 pl. 24f.
 6.6 Summary

Additional Texts that May Belong to the mašmaššu-phase
 7.1 Omission and Inclusion of Titles
 7.2 Tablets Without Kiṣir-Aššur’s Professional Title
 7.3 Tablets with Broken Colophons
 7.4 The mašmaššu-phase and Purpose Statements
 7.5 A Discussion of the Dated Tablet KAR 267
 7.6 Other Technical Literature: BAM 307 and ACh Supp. 2 24
 7.7 Summary

Kiṣir-Aššur’s mašmaš bīt Aššur-phase
 8.1 The Title mašmaš bīt Aššur
 8.2 Medical Texts from Kiṣir-Aššur’s mašmaš bīt Aššur-phase
 8.3 Tested Prescriptions Among the Medical Texts
 8.4 Panaceas Among the Medical Texts
 8.5 Ritual Texts from Kiṣir-Aššur’s mašmaš bīt Aššur-phase
 8.6 Texts Connected to the Aššur Temple
 8.7 Summary

Situating Kiṣir-Aššur’s Knowledge Production
 9.1 Kiṣir-Aššur’s Overall Medical Focus
 9.2 Numbered Nisḫu-extracts
 9.3 Catch-lines and Duplicate Passages in Kiṣir-Aššur’s Texts in Relation to the Therapeutic Series Ugu
 9.4 The Exorcist’s Manual (EM)
 9.5 Kiṣir-Aššur and the Scholarly Traditions in Assur
 9.6 Summary

Synthesis and Conclusion

Catalogue of Texts

Edition of RA 15 pl. 76
 General Observations
Bibliography 346

Suited for everyone interested in ancient Near Eastern magico-medical texts and practices, ancient libraries, and the training of specialists, as well as anyone concerned with the history of ancient medicine.
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