Founded in 1937 by Prof. Adalberto Pazzini at the Institute of Hygiene, it was transferred in 1965 to its current location at the Institute of the History of Medicine. It documents the evolution of medicine and pharmacology from prehistory to the last century, from shamans to Hippocrates, from Pasteur to Spallanzani.The collection, consisting of both authentic specimens and reproductions, has been built up through private bequests and donations, such as the Gorga Collection and the Pazzini Collection, and with objects from the Egyptian Museum in Turin and the Oriental Institute in Naples. The exhibits include a precious collection of medieval apothecary jars, Egyptian ointment jars for mummification, various surgical instruments, portable apothecaries, ex-votos and talismans. Some rooms have also been reconstructed, such as a 17th century apothecary's shop and the alchemist's laboratory.
Hundreds of archaeological finds have been added to the original historic collections, granted by the superintendence, such as anthropological finds from the Collatina Necropolis, one of the largest in Rome with 2300 tombs dating from the 1st to the 3rd century A.D., which has yielded skeletons of women with fractured knees and dental prostheses. You can admire the incredible variety of imperial terracotta votive offerings, dating from the 1st to the 2nd century AD, in the shape of feet, hands, wombs and breasts, symbolising prayers to the gods for fertility or for the healing of a painful limb. And then there are the more mysterious pieces, still at the centre of scientific studies and debates, such as the votive offerings in the shape of half female heads.
Among the exhibits is the skull of the "Bambino di Fidene", the oldest evidence of skull drilling surgery, unique in the history of Roman civilisation in the imperial age. The find was discovered together with the rest of the skeleton in 1995 in a pit tomb without grave goods, in a necropolis of about thirty burials in the Roman suburb of Fidene. It belonged to a 5-year-old boy from the 2nd century AD. The entire skeleton, now reassembled, lies on a bed of sand inside a case that stabilises the microclimate.
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