Medieval wound pathology?
Hi all,

I'm a freelance writer and RPG designer, and I have found this site to be a wonderful resource for some of the historically themed projects I have recently been working on. I was wondering if someone could point me to a website or other resource that details wound pathology for various dark age, medieval, and early renaissance battles. I know that the mass graves discovered at Wisby revealed a lot, but I haven't been able to find anything specific.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I would start with the Wisby book. It has a section that is very good on the topic.
Here is another:

Head Protection in England before the First World War. Source Neurosurgery. 47(6):1261-1286, December 2000.

Another case is a halberd monograph by George Snook. He looks at skulls from medieval a medieval battle.

The danger of this science is that it cannot deduce blunt force trauma or more importantly perhaps soft tissue damage. All the injuries it can tell you is what the bones tell, meanign the weapon hit the bone and as we all know you do not have to break bones to be killed. Some indication of battle is surely to be found there though. One body at wisby had both legs shorn off!!! But it clearly is not a good depiction of all injuries.

I suggest looking at medieval coroner's rolls. These tell you a lot about how people fought and died in civil life. I read a bunch of them from the 14th century. Lots of knife attacks, many staff attacks, and few sword or bow attacks. Just as in modern times, sometimes stab victims dropped more or less instantly, while other ones ran after and fought their attackers.
I have seen this book on Amazon:;sr=8-1
If you pick up SPADA 2 from Chivalry Bookshelf, there is a good article in it called Medical Reality of Historical Wounds. It is an interesting from a modern doctor's perspective on historical evidence of wounds from coroner's rolls, historical doctor's notes, and comparing them to modern cases of similar wounds.

Where can I find these coroner's rolls?
Hi there,
Aeryn; in addition to researching Wisby, it would probably serve you well to investigate the book "Blood Red Roses", and any associated sources relating to the Battle of Towton.
The book referred to above, Blood Red Roses,covers the research done on the mass graves associated with the battle.
Whilst much of what was discovered may be related to injuries inflicted after the battle [basically believed to be men being tortured / mutilated / killed away from the battle site], the TV program also touched on what was obviously battle injuries.
One particular skeleton found, number 16, shows evidence of a various blade injuries, including one enormous one on the jaw. The latter one was of special interest as:
[a] part of the bone had been removed presumably by the blow
[b] the jaw had been broken by the blow
[c] the injury had healed without sign of infection quite some time [b]before
the battle of Towton; testimony to some degree of medical skill having been applied.[/b]
The cover of the book shows the skull from skeleton number 9; the penetrating wound is thought to have been caused by either a war hammer or some form of poleaxe.
Pictures of both injuries are also shown in the Osprey book "Towton 1461"; ISBN 1-84176-513-9.

Good luck with your research!
Apologies for excessive use of BOLD text in last post.
Got all mixed up with my fingers and thumbs.
Didnt intend for it to look like I was shouting etc.
Thanks all! This will definitely get me started.

Do any of you know if there is any information on wound pathology from older battles? I'd especially like to see anything from the Battle of Hastings. Even descriptions of combat from contemporary sources would work.

According to some relatively recently published research Henry V was wounded fighting in the Welsh wars while Prince of Wales. He had an arrow enter his face to the left of his nose. It went in 6 inches. :!:

To extract the arrowhead, they had to widen the wound track and fabricate a special tool to get it out. Once it was out they kept the wound clean and gradually reduced the size of the treated-cloth packing until it healed.

I read about this in Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle ( by Juliet Barker. I believe Anne Curry was the first to publish the info, though.
In my mis-spent youth, I did quite a bit of research on 17th-18th century medicine. Actually, there really weren't that many advances in either treatment or pathology from the period you specify until the period I studied. The reason I mention this is the statements made above regarding broken bones. While a simple fracture could and often was set without incident, compound fractures and fractures that perforrated the flesh were virtually guaranteed to infect and result in death or either by septicemia or trauma from amputation. Even simple blows to the skull could be trapanned and fractures reduced without much incident if the skull was not preforated and there was no soft-tissue damage. Infected teeth can lead not only to painful abcess but damage to the heart muscle and valves. My point is that a crushing blow quite ofen would have been either permanently disabling depending on the skill of the surgeon or bone-setter (badly set bones leading to poorl functionality) and, most likely, would have been a precursor to a painful, lingering death. Any puncture wound to the abdominal cavity would likely have been fatal even if no vital organ was injured. So, discounting the woulds that would have lead to quick death via loss of blood volume or shock, keep in mind that even minor wounds and broken bones could and often did lead to death within 7-21 days after the battle. George

In a number of books I have been reading lately they have similar wounds to Henry's and they live as well. The Great Warbow has a section on this as well. I assume more often it would prove fatal but I think there are enough medieval examples to prove they could treat them in someways with varying degrees of success.
One of my friends who is nearly done with his medieval degree was really shocked to read some of the excerts I sent him on medieval treatments. He said some of the methods are similar today with extraction (though the pouring of liquor and other things like hot oil into wounds have stopped). There are all sort of medieval medieval treatment manuals about still. The last step in most wounds is pray that it is God's will for them to live, the treatise's are really quite impressive and detailed.

It should be noted that though skilled healers where around, they where by no means common. the king could be expected to have skilled surgeon around, at leas when on campaign. Most people would not be as lucky.

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