Skip to content Skip to navigation

Blogging Kalamazoo 2021 – Session 65 - Treating Animals: Veterinary Science in the Middle Ages

Monday, May 10, 2021 - 13:31

This is the first of my “to watch” sessions that was recorded, so I took the opportunity to run out and do some errands, then got back just 20 minutes into the session and decided to check it out live.

A Kingdom For a Horse: Horses, Humans, and Emotional Attachment in Early Indo-European Sources - Stéfan J. Koekemoer, University of New Mexico

(I came in just at the end of this. The session was recorded, so I may go back later, especially since the Q&A indicates there was discussion of magical healing of horses.)

Lexeme Tracing as a Way to Establish Texts in the Anglo-Saxon "Library": A Test Case with the Veterinary Text Mulomedicina chironis - Bethany Christiansen, Independent Scholar

Studying the question of which texts and portions of texts were available to pre-conquest English people by tracing particular technical vocabulary that carries over. Focuses on a single lexeme (word) Greco-Latin moium (penis) which is rare and therefore indicates access to the specific texts that use it, in this case, a treatise on medical care of mules. The theory is that if a rare word is correctly glossed or translated in English manuscripts, that indicates that there was knowledge of the texts that present it in context. This analysis is only possible when the vocabular item is rare, and when the texts that might include it are also rare.

The end goal here isn’t specifically to do with veterinary practice, but with determining the hypothetical contents of long-vanished libraries. No early English veterinary texts survive, but we can identify the types of evidence that would indicate which ones might have been known in pre-conquest England.

Several texts are relevant to the question of early English familiarity with the word moium (listed in the presentation). The proof-of-familiarity appears in a text on human medicine where a stags penis is used as an ingredient in a remedy. This remedy is an Old English translation of a known Latin text, which itself provides no context for the meaning of moium. So the translation of the word as OE scytel must rely on knowledge of that context from other sources. Since moium itself is rare, the  number of possible sources is limited and therefore informative. Interestingly, scytel itself is also a rare lexeme, but can be derived as a metonym from a word meaning “shooter, arrow-like thing”.

One possible alternate explanation is that the translator did simply guess meaning from context (given that the ingredient is in a recipe to treat impotence). Another possibility is that the word wasn’t actually that rare at the time, but that texts including it have had differential survival. There’s also the objection that there isn’t enough rare technical terminology to be able to test this method for identifying lost texts that may have been in circulation.

Fighting Dire Prognoses: Intra-Active Healing in Thirteenth-Century Equine Veterinary Praxis - Elizabeth S. Leet, Washington & Jefferson College – [The presenter notes: “I do not want any images in or of my presentation live-tweeted/shared on social media.” I’m interpreting these notes very conservatively, just to be safe, and not blogging any papers that have restrictions noted.] A paper examining “heroic measures” taken to heal laminitis in a horse belonging to the Holy Roman Emperor, compared to modern veterinary practices.

Major category: