Ancient Roman Bronze Medical Double Ended Probe


A Roman bronze double ended probe, comprised of a long thin shaft, with two symmetrical oblong olivary terminals. The shaft is further enriched with two small protrusions at the centre, increasing the grip of the object. This tool would have been used to prepare medications, with the olivary terminal used for stirring and applying the unction to the affected area.

Date: Circa 3rd Century AD
Provenance: Ex SM private collection, London, acquired by descent 1970-99.
Condition: Excellent condition, some patination and encrustation to the surface.


SKU: AG-54 Category: Tag:

Spatula probes were a very common tool in Ancient Roman medicine, as we know from their frequent mention in contemporary medical texts. The spatula probe was a multipurpose tool. Although thought to be primarily for mixing and applying medicines and ointments, it could also be used in surgery and examination, and there is even record that it could be used to cauterise the umbilical cord. It is also thought that their uses were not confined exclusively to medicine, and that perhaps they were used in cosmetics, or other more domestic uses. This spatula probe is made from a bronze, a highly typical material for medical tools from this time. Although we know that iron was also used, Hippocrates specifically recommends the use of bronze as the norm. Bronze also survives very well in the archaeological record, meaning today we have many more surviving examples of bronze medical tools.

To find out more about Roman medical tools, please see our relevant blog post: Roman medicine and Medical Tools

Weight 8.6 g
Dimensions L 12 x W 0.5 cm



Reference: For a similar item,The Metropolitan Museum, item 17.230.93

You may also like…