The Science and Art of Medicine


On Display

Jacobean touchpieces, English, 1610-1620.

Gold angel, used as a touchpiece in the ceremony of healing by touch, mint mark in form of a castle, 2nd or 3rd coinage, issued by James I, 1603-1625

Carved wooden divination bowl, Nigeria, 1880-1920.

An adjella ifa, a bowl to store the palm nuts used by diviners of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. This particular object is shaped in the form of a woman carrying a child, kneeling in respect to Ifa, the god of divination. The diviner seeks information

Wooden figure representing the god Eshu, Nigeria, 1880-1920.

A wooden figure in the form of Eshu, a god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. In Yoruba tradition, Eshu is described as a figure of trickery and surprise. In common with other depictions of Eshu, he is seen here playing a flute.

Amulet of the god Eshu, Nigeria, 1880-1900.

An amulet in the form of Eshu, a god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The wooden figure is covered with carved divination boards and cowrie shells threaded onto leather.

Bag with objects for divination, Africa, 1880-1930.

A woven string bag containing objects used for divination. The bag contains thirty-six objects including animal bones, pebbles, nut kernels and a hoof, each of which means something specific to a diviner. The objects are thrown onto a mat and the pat

Palm nuts with cloth bag, Nigeria, 1880-1920.

A set of palm nuts usually kept in the blue cloth bag. Diviners of the Yoruba people of Nigeria pass sixteen palm nuts from hand to hand eight times. Each time, one or two nuts are kept in the hand and this is marked on a board. The diviner reads t

Painted wooden panel of Asian Pear, Japan

Made from the wood and bark of the trees they pictured, the panel depicts a plant which is important in Japanese culture.

Divination set, Zimbabwe, 1880-1920.

A set of four divination plaques on a string, used by the Mashona people of Zimbabwe. Mashona diviners use only red ivorywood for their plaques, as they believe it is the only wood that tells the truth. It is the royal wood of KwaZulu Natal and is n

Amuletic necklace, West Africa, 1880-1920.

An amuletic necklace made of horn, claw, nuts and metal, strung together on a leather thong. It is common to put medicine in an animal horn, and necklace charms are often worn around the neck as protection against illness and ill fortune.

Maddox wing test instrument, c 1920-1937.

A wooden divination board, known as an itombwa. It is carved in the form of an animal and was used by diviners of the Kuba people to answer questions about an illness. The flat back is covered in oil and water and rubbed with the wooden block. When