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Instrumentum d'hygiène et de médecine en Gaule romaine

Abstract : At the end of the Iron Age, the changes affecting the material culture of pre-Roman Gaul attest the importance of influences and exchanges with the Hellenistic and Roman cultures. After a few imports at the end of the 2nd century BC, the arrival of objects and products related to body care intensified, especially from the Augustan period onwards. By their quantity and variety, they stand out from the razors, nail clippers, pliers and toiletries known until then and hints at the significant transformations in the way people look, maintain and care for their bodies, which go hand in hand with the development of thermal practice in particular. From the 1st century AD onwards, the use of strigils, perfume spoons or pyxides spread widely within society: their generalized use shows that they were no longer reserved for the elites.Most of Roman sites provide body care implement. These tangible remains complement the historical sources on these aspects of daily life. Thanks to a new examination of this archeological documentation, this work aims to obtain an overview of a situation that has been so far addressed by thematic, site-specific or regional studies. This research thus intends to revise and enhance the typological and chronological framework of these categories of artefacts.The examination of the "Cartes archéologiques de la Gaule", of a large bibliography and the direct examination of part of the small finds have allowed to create a corpus of nearly 8000 objects dated between the 1st century BC and the 5th century AD, covering 2850 sites in the investigated area. Although our work does not intend to be exhaustive, the large series of data uncovered during recent excavations provide a more solid basis for typological and chronological analysis. The survey is not restricted to Roman Gaul but is extended to the whole Roman world for comparative purposes. The finding contexts have been reviewed and the data compiled to propose time ranges for the production, circulation and discarding of the different object types.This re-examination is all the more necessary since there is a persistent historiographical bias: in the past some objects have been considered to be surgical instruments, whereas most of them in fact are accessories related to cosmetics. Texts, instruments and substances show that hygiene and medical practices were not always clearly dissociated in Roman times: the boundary between embellishment and body care can be faint. While the hygienic or medical function of some objects such as mirrors or scalpels is easily identifiable, others are versatile and can theoretically be used in both areas of activity. At the outcome of this study, it has been possible to propose a type-by-type classification – either cosmetic or medico-surgical – for the identified types of spoon-probes and spatula-probes.Due to their abundance and internal morphological variety, some functional categories (mirrors, strigils, spoon-probes, spatula-probes, grinding tablets, scalpels) have led to a more detailed typo-chronological analysis. The succession and contemporaneity of different models have been therefore highlighted. The analysis of the spatial distribution of the most frequent types allows us to understand the conditions of their distribution, but also, sometimes, to sort out imports from Greece or Italy from probable provincial productions. By responding to demand, these objects bear witness to the medical and hygienic practices within the Gallo-Roman society.
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Contributor : Elise Vigier <>
Submitted on : Thursday, December 17, 2020 - 9:28:16 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 9:40:33 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 6:30:24 PM


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  • HAL Id : tel-03079065, version 1



Elise Vigier. Instrumentum d'hygiène et de médecine en Gaule romaine. Archéologie et Préhistoire. Université de Lyon, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018LYSE2062⟩. ⟨tel-03079065⟩



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