Surgical Instruments - Forceps 2nd century AD.



The ancient Greek medical literature, from the Hippocratic Corpus to the Corpus Galenicum and the compiler Byzantin doctors, often refers to the use of forceps for tooth removal as a last resort to relieve toothache. The best description of forceps is given in Mechanics, an Aristotelian work, of questionable authenticity. Surprisingly, the most complete description of the procedure of tooth extraction with forceps is given by Aulus Cornelius Celsus in his treatise De Medicina, though Latin dental terminology was disappointingly limited and covering only elementary concepts.

One of the three surviving forceps in Greece belongs to the Archaeological collections of Lidoriki (which is temporarily closed) and is kept in the Archaeological Museum of Amfissa. The specimen was found in the early 1970s, during the excavation of ancient Kallipolis/Kallion, the renowned Aetolian city that flourished in the 4th century BC, now inundated by the waters of the artificial lake of Mornos.

The forceps of Kallipolis/Kallion, a replica adorns the Museum of Dentistry, is a rare finding and one of the few found in Europe as the material used for their construction (mainly iron and brass) erodes and deteriorates.  It dates to the early Christian centuries during the Roman Imperial period when ancient Greco-Roman medicine was at its zenith and the most renowned representative was Galen of Pergamum.

Leonardo Dude in his thesis Extraktionszangen der römischen Kaiserzeit classified the tooth forceps of the roman period according to their design in groups. The Kallipolis/Kallion forceps according to their classification is included in group B which is the most widespread in the Mediterranean basin, a region which coincides with the Imperium Romanum.

Tooth extraction and the use of tooth forceps in antiquity is a research area of interest to the Museum of Dentistry NKUA and a project undertaken under its auspices whose findings are to be published in Journal for the History of Dentistry.