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Lady parading with followers bearing torches, at the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane, marking the beginning of summer.	Source: chrisdonia/CC BY NC SA 2.0

10 Ancient Festivals That Were Far From Innocent

Many ancient festivals had elements that were far from innocent, often involving rituals, practices, and customs that might seem strange or even disturbing by today's standards. From bloodletting, to...
Leech Finders, from the print collection Costume of Yorkshire (1814), by artist George Walker and engravers Robert and Daniel Havell.             Source: New York Public Library.

Leech Collectors Used Amputated Legs to Procure Leeches

When it comes to historical jobs that will make your skin crawl, leech collecting certainly tops the list. While today, leeches might be an oddity or a relic of ancient medicine, they were once...
Pirate surgeon kit. Source:  Kai Beercrafter / Adobe Stock.

The Gruesome Life of a Pirate Surgeon (Video)

During the Golden Age of Piracy danger was constant. Facing bullets, splinters, and diseases like scurvy, yellow fever, malaria, and smallpox, skilled surgeons were a necessity. 18th-century pirate...
Leech therapy. Source: Natalia Terenteva / Adobe Stock

Ancient Maggot and Leech Therapy Sees Revival to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

A sharp increase in global antibiotic resistance has caused scientists to search for viable alternatives. But while innovative ancient treatments using maggots, leeches and honey are being...
Some of these ancient medical treatments will make you understand how the ‘mad doctor’ trope got started. Source: vchalup / Adobe Stock

Murderous Medicine: Six Strange and Horrifying Ancient Medical Treatments

The medical field has advanced significantly compared to where it was fifty years ago, let alone over 1,000 years ago. Although modern technology has allowed us to understand more about the human...
The bloodletting of a patient by a surgeon with three dismayed onlookers; represented by five faun-like demons. Source: Wellcome Images / CC BY 4.0

Bleeding Your Way to Health: The Horrible History of Bloodletting

Bloodletting, or phlebotomy, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the surgical removal of some of a patient’s blood for therapeutic purposes.” Throughout the majority of history, this gruesome,...
A ceremony in the cult of Venezuelan goddess Maria Lionza. Self-harming rituals are practiced in this cult. Source: EJ George/YouTube Screenshot

Venezuelan Cult Still Practices Shocking Self-Harming Rituals

Every year thousands of Venezuelans hike into the mountains around Chivacoa and practice fire, blood, and smoke rituals as they pay homage to their indigenous goddess - Maria Lionza - who is still...
Surgical instruments of ancient physicians. Credit: Kai Beercrafter / Adobe Stock

The Gory History of Barber Surgeons: Medieval Medicine Gone Mad

It’s no surprise that the history of medicine had a rocky and somewhat gruesome journey before reaching its current, modern state. From the earliest meddling in surgery in Classical Antiquity to the...
This is an artist's copy of a mural at the Temple of the Murals at Bonampak, a Maya archaeological site showing examples of heavy jewelry.

New Discovery Suggests That Maya Elites Danced Wearing As Much As 25 Pounds of Jade Jewelry

A five-pound jade head pendant has been found at Ucanal, an archaeological site in what was once the Maya city of K’anwitznal. The massive jade pendant, the heaviest of its kind ever found, once hung...
Bloodletting was treatment for infection in the past.

In a world with no antibiotics, how did doctors treat infections?

The development of antibiotics and other antimicrobial therapies is arguably the greatest achievement of modern medicine. However, overuse and misuse of antimicrobial therapy predictably leads to...