Bloodstained Mementos of Medieval Medicine

Peter Bowron looks into excavations found at a Middle Ages hospital in Scotland.

Excavations on the site of a medieval hospital in Scotland have uncovered a mass of waste products and the remains of around 300,000 pints of blood, shedding fascinating light on medical practice in the Middle Ages.

The second season of investigation of plant and organic remains embedded in the soil of the monastic hospital at Soutra, seventeen miles south of Edinburgh, has just been completed by a team under the direction of Brian Moffat. SHARP – the mercifully short acronym for the Soutra Hospital Archaeothnopharmalogical Research Project – aims, in Brian Moffat's words, 'to recover the physical residues of medical practice and evaluate them against documentation from the time when the hospital was in use' (from about the middle of the twelfth century to the mid-sixteenth).

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