Miracles to Medicine

Exploring the social and cultural history of medicine and health in medieval Northumbria

‘Lindisfarne: Miracles to Medicine’ is an interactive project exploring the social and cultural history of medicine and health from medieval times to the modern day, through examining archaeological evidence from the medieval monastery in Lindisfarne.

Since 2016, DigVentures has been conducting archaeological excavations on Lindisfarne, a small island on the Northumbrian coast. Once known by its old Brittonic name ‘Medcaut‘, meaning ‘place of healing’, the island’s restorative reputation grew throughout the Anglo-Saxon and medieval period when it became the site of one of the most famous monasteries in England. The team has located the monastic infirmary, which, given the island’s reputation, would have been one of the most important buildings within the complex.

Thanks to a very generous grant from the Wellcome Trust, we are now running Miracles to Medicine – an interactive project based on archaeological evidence from our excavations. The project brings together a team of arts, technology, archaeological science and public engagement specialists to investigate the social and cultural history of medicine and health on Holy Island, to start conversations about contemporary issues of health, social care, medical ethics, pseudo- science and faith healing.

Drawing on new, tech-enabled models of participation, Miracles to Medicine offers schools, families, and learners of all ages opportunities to explore trauma, disease and healing through using their powers of deduction, logic and creative reasoning to solve medieval medical mysteries.

And, by giving families the opportunity to actually take part in the excavation on Lindisfarne focusing on the monastery’s infirmary, Miracles to Medicine has also created a public touch point for academic research, encouraging more people to participate, interact with health-related research, and to consider how bioarchaeology and health science research are embedded in our lives.

Inspired by real archaeology

Medieval medicine is often characterised as having little to do with the treatments we receive today – just a bunch of strange potions, weird remedies, religious miracles, and an unhealthy dependency on leeches, variously administered by witches, quacks, and saints.

But it wasn’t just hocus-pocus. There is plenty of archaeological evidence proving medieval medicines could be surprisingly effective, especially those based on extensive knowledge of herbal remedies.

So far, DigVentures has teamed up with over 2,500 young learners, inspiring lively conversations about medieval medical practices such as herbalism and faith healing, and looking at how those practices have evolved into the scientific, evidence-based practice of medicine today.

The project will continue through 2019, with plenty of exciting opportunities to take part. Are you a school, museum, youth organisation, or other group interested in a Miracles to Medicine session? Get in touch!

 

‘I enjoyed having to find out what is wrong with the person’
‘I learned that they used plants as medicine!'
‘I learned about some popular cures in history, I enjoyed learning about the box of artefacts'
'I learned when you broke your arm if it was too bad they chopped it off'
‘I enjoyed learning stuff about the middle ages!'
‘I enjoyed the task where you have to find out what is wrong with the person.’
'My favourite part was learning about the medicines they used.’
and I found it amazing that there were bones. Overall I really enjoyed it.’

Miracles to Medicine has reached out to 2,500 children in classrooms and workshops, and has also enabled over 100 families to take part in a real excavation, helping to investigate the monastic infirmary on Lindisfarne alongside professional archaeologists.

We hope our cross-sector approach will improve overall engagement in health sciences through practical archaeology based learning, creating more opportunities for audiences to interact with health-related research. The community excavation has created a touch point for blending public engagement with academic research, encouraging more people to participate as well a consider how bioarchaeology and health science research is embedded in our lives.

There are lots of different ways children and young people can take part in Miracles to Medicine – either by booking your own session if you’re a school or youth group, or by finding us at one of the many public events we’ve attended.

For schools and youth groups

We are currently offering FREE Miracles to Medicine workshops in schools, or flexibly in other settings.

As well as in classroom settings, we can accommodate the sessions on a large scale in museums and at historic sites.

Miracles to Medicine gives children the chance to learn about medieval medicine through an interactive ‘choose your own adventure’ style game.

Given a box of clues, children must use their reasoning, deductive and logic skills to diagnose their patient’s illness. Then, they’ll need to rummage through our medieval medicine cupboard to find the right herbs to ‘heal’ their patient.

Once they’re treated their patient, children then take on the role of an archaeologist, looking at the evidence their patient might leave in the archaeological record… think broken bones, abscessed teeth, and traces of St Johns’ Wort!

Children will investigate disease and trauma in osteoarchaeological remains, then getting to handle artefacts related to their character in order to build a story for their character based on the evidence they are presented with (but don’t worry – these clues’ are 3D printed copies!)

So far, we’ve teamed up with over 2,500 children to think about medieval medical practices such as herbalism and faith healing, and how those practices have evolved over time to the scientific, evidence based medicine that we have today.

If you are a school or organisation who would like to know more about our Miracles to Medicine workshops, get in touch with us at bookings@digventures.com

For families

So far, we’ve enabled over 100 families to get hands-on and help us excavate archaeological evidence from the monastic infirmary on Lindisfarne.

We’ve also run the Miracles to Medicine workshop at huge, family-friendly public events, like Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, and Bowes Museum in Country Durham.

If you are a family who would like to know more about opportunities to get hands-on with archaeology, or find out about public opportunities to join one of our public Miracles to Medicine workshops, just check out our Events Calendar.

For online participants

Too far for us to reach you? Too far away to reach us? Don’t worry – Miracles to Medicine is available online too!

Schools and youth groups can book specially adapted sessions via Skype.

You can virtually handle all of our discoveries from Lindisfarne through Digital Dig Team – our online platform that enables engagement with archaeology beyond the bounds of physical location!

If you are a school or organisation who would like to know more about taking part in our Miracles to Medicine workshops online, get in touch with us at bookings@digventures.com

We hope our cross-sector approach will improve overall engagement in health sciences through practical archaeology based learning, creating more opportunities for audiences to interact with health-related research. The community excavation will create a touch point for blending public engagement with academic research, encouraging more people to participate as well a consider how bioarchaeology and health science research is embedded in our lives.

We are currently offering Miracles to Medicine workshops in schools and other group settings until April 2019

Want to book Miracles to Medicine for your class or youth group? We can accommodate the sessions in classrooms, as well as museums, community centres and historic sites.

If you are a school or organisation who would like to know more, just get in touch with us at bookings@digventures.com

Sign up to DigMail

No nonsense. Just dig alerts and the insider's view on the week's biggest archaeological discoveries.

Easy opt-out at any time - Privacy Policy

Archaeology / In Your Hands
CLOSE