Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This ligula has a thin, shallow oblong scoop that is at a slight angle to the shaft. Bent and corroded, the thin undecorated shaft tapers to a sharp point (1).
Greek and Roman medical instruments, many of which were described by ancient authors, have been found, sometimes in sets, throughout the ancient world (2). The instruments could have been used for more than one function, making precise classification difficult in some instances. A ligula is a probe with a small scoop on one end positioned at an angle to the shaft; the scoop was used to remove ointments and powdered medicines from containers and perhaps also apply them (3).
1. A similar instrument with a straight shaft was found in a grave at the Palaestra of Pompeii; see A. Mairui, “Pompei: Scavo della ‘Grande Palestra’ nel quartiere dell’Anfiteatro (a. 1935-1939),” Notizie degli Scavi 1939: 165-283, esp. 216-21, figs. 30-32. See also E. Künzl, Medizinische Instrumente aus Sepulkralfunden der römischen Kaiserzeit (Cologne, 1983) 12, fig. 3.
2. J. S. Milne, Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (Oxford, 1907) 1-9; and D. Michaelides, “A Roman Surgeon’s Tomb from Nea Paphos,” Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 1984: 315-32, esp. 321-23.
3. Milne 1907 (supra 2) 77-78; Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 325; R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 157; and L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 48-49.