Posts Tagged ‘Medical Knowledge’


Richard III: The New Evidence

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News, Research, Richard III in the Media

Media NewsSanta comes a few days late to Ricardians in Australia, but next Sunday, 28 December 2015, SBS 1 will broadcast the program Richard III:  The New Evidence, first broadcast in the UK on 17 August 2014, at the end of the Bosworth weekend.  The program features Dominic Smee, who has the same degree of scoliosis as Richard did and can be regarded as his body double. Definitely a program not to be missed, even if you have already watched it on YouTube.

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This essay was written by Rachel during the course of her studies towards a Master’s degree at the University of New England.

 “Have you drunk any malificium, that is, herbs or other agents, so that you could not have children?”[1]

Were contraceptives and other means of family limitation such as abortion, infanticide, and child abandonment practised in medieval Western Europe?  If so, what remedies and methods of contraception were used, to what extent, and were they successful?  Early research into the topic concluded that contraception was virtually unknown in the Middle Ages and that medieval people did not have a ‘contraceptive mentality’. [2]  However, more recent investigations have produced a plethora of writing which clearly demonstrates that medieval society not only knew about various forms of contraception and abortifacients; they used them to such a degree that medical texts, church doctrine and the common literature of the time are strewn with references to their use.  Documents are littered with contraceptive recipes and methods and contain warnings and prohibitions against certain herbs, many of these originating in antiquity.  Contemporary research into the history of human fertility control has therefore ceased to ask when contraception became common place and effective, and instead questions how family limitation was practised prior to the eighteenth century.[3] The idea and practice of controlling the number of children conceived and born has been employed across all cultures through time, although the methods and efficacy vary.[4]

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   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

There will be very few people – at least among our readers – who don’t know that Richard suffered from scoliosis.  However, as an article in the medical journal The Lancet reports, researchers at Leicester University have also found that he suffered from roundworm.

During the original dig in September 2012, sediment samples were taken from the sacral area of his pelvis, as well as control samples from his skull and the soil outside the grave cut.  In the samples from the sacral area multiple roundworm eggs (Ascaris lumbricoides) were found, while there were none in the samples from the skull area and only few in the soil samples from outside the grave.  The sacrum is the large, triangular bone at the base of the spine and the sacral area is where the intestines would have been, showing that Richard was infected with roundworm.

The infection is spread by faecal contamination of food by dirty hands, or use of faeces as a crop fertilizer, showing the different idea of hygiene in his time.  Except in very severe cases, people who have the infection show virtually no symptoms.

The researchers also say that a person of Richard’s social status would have eaten a variety of meats and fish on a regular basis.  However, there is no evidence of the eggs of beef, pork, or fish tapeworm, indicating that his food had been cooked thoroughly.

You can read the full article here.

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