Disorders of Language and Speech in Ancient Mesopotamia
This tablet forms part of the second “Chapter” in the Akkadian Diagnostic Handbook, a canonical medical diagnostic treatise originally compiled in the 11th century BCE. In the second “Chapter”, symptoms observed on the body of the patient are listed from head to toe and are connected with a diagnosis or prognosis. This particular tablet lists symptoms relating to voice, language, and speech. For example, on the reverse of the tablet (the second photo), entries begin with a description of a patient whose speech constantly “changes”, and this primary symptom is observed with a variety of other problems, such as fever, vomiting, depression, and weeping. Scribes, scholars, and medical practitioners in ancient Mesopotamia compiled detailed observations of medical symptoms and diseases to generate this Diagnostic Handbook, and a separate series of therapeutic texts prescribed methods of treating many of the diseases described therein.
Neo-Assyrian, ca. 911-612 BCE.
British Museum. Images from CDLI.