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Reconstruction of medieval orthopaedic and dental treatment

Wednesday, 10 October, 2012 to Friday, 31 October, 2014
Organised by: 
Wiel van der Mark
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
15-20 participants, 1000s of visitors throughout the year; publication in medical journal, c. 20.000 readers

In Archeon, one of the reconstructed houses is inhabited by the Medieval barber-churgeon. He is tasked with caring for the well-being of the inhabitants of Gravendam, who come to him for all sorts of care. The barber-churgeon, often portrayed by Wiel van der Mark, takes care of the external and internal. He cuts hair, shaves, proscribes medicines, gives first aid and provides long-term care.

Aims of the experiments
Taking two examples of medieval medical treatments, we will study the similarities and differences between them and modern practice; the treatment of a open femur fracture and treating holes in the teeth.
We would provide an adequate description of the practices themselves and how to present them to the visitors of AOAM, so that they can be used by our OpenArch partners.
By seeking the advice of modern orthopedic and dental surgeons, we will make a comparison with modern practices.
By using Medieval sources and translating relevant parts both into modern Dutch and English, we make their use available on an international level.

We made a study of the original medieval texts and drawings, translated them in present-day Dutch and made interpretations of the text when necessary.
A team of craftsmen reconstructed the materials and equipments (felt, salve, splints, instruments)
According to the translations we made a script for live interpretation, a team of archeo-interpreters assisted the barber surgeon in the demonstration of the treatments
The process of the reconstructions of equipments and the treatment of the injuries was photographed so that they can then be passed onto our partners.

The reconstructions themselves are unique in the context of Experimental Actions, since they are not based on particular Archaeological finds. Instead, they are purely based on written (and drawn) sources, giving us the opportunity to work from an action to an object instead of vice versa. This method of reconstructing the past (and then presenting it to the public) cannot truly be called experimental Archaeology and in our opinion, moves the Dialogue with Science further forward.

In the period 2013-2014 the experimental actions were demonstrated to a diverse group of visitors, from school children to adults, from day-trip visitors to businesses organising meetings. The findings of both the historical research and the experience of presenting it to the public will be presented in powerpoint presentations and a written article for the EXARC journal. Of course, all material is made available to all OpenArch partners.


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