Dermatological Notions in Mesopotamian Medicine

Francesca Minen, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

During the last decades the field of Mesopotamian medicine gained a prominent position in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Recently, the subject received a newimpetus with the edition of texts and with thematic or theoretical monographic studies.

Some brief contributions have been devoted also to dermatological aspects, but a comprehensive reassessment of the topic is still lacking.This presentation aims at offering a brief overview of the main issues relating to this matter.

Even if there are few dermatological textsstrictu sensu and skin is explicitly addressed only in rare occasions, skin lesions and diseases are not only widely attested in the medical corpus, but also mentioned in divination series, literarycompositions, legal and diplomatic documents. The dermatological terminology is also rich and presents difficulties in translation and interpretation. The first attempts of translation stem from the end of the XIX century onwards and they seem to be mainly concerned with finding Akkadian parallels to the Biblicalṣāraʿat. Even if most of these first hypotheses have been now revised by working on medical and physiognomical texts, the matter needs further discussions.

After a brief introduction to Mesopotamian medical lore, the presentation will define the concept of skin in the ancient Near East and isolate common features about skin in medical texts. Particular attention will be devoted also to the principles of dermatological observation emerging from the series SA.GIG and in particular from Tablet 33. In conclusion, the presentation will outline the problems connected with translating dermatological termini technici and retrospective diagnosis.