“The finds at the Alahana Pirivena ancient hospital complex in Polonnaruwa are unique, for it is the only hospital site from around the world in archaeological terms that a number of surgical instruments have been unearthed in addition to medical equipment. It was a monastic hospital that they discovered in 1982 within the Alahana Pirivena, one of the largest monastic complexes founded by Physician-King Parakrama Bahu I (1153-1186 AD).”
Prof. Prematilleke, formerly Head of the Department of Archaeology of the Peradeniya University and Founder President of the Sri Lanka Council of Archaeologists.
Click to enlarge. Photos courtesy Prof Arjuna Aluvihare
“Metal applicators for applying medications or cosmetics around the eye? Probes- known to have been used to sound cavities and in the delineation of fistulae and sinuses. Large scissors of which there are several examples- of the kind used to cut cloth for bandages and dressings. Smaller scissors- to be fitted with wooden handles- perhaps used for cutting tissue. A lance- a type of instrument used for ‘stabbing’ open tissue very quickly to drain pus from an abscess or cut through the perineum (between the anus and the scrotum) for stones in the urinary bladder. Forceps with very strong jaws as might be used for removing dead bone or extracting teeth. Forceps with more delicate structure that might be used to handle tissue like skin or intestine. A scalpel to be used with a wooden handle.
The weighing scales, lime containers and arecanut cutters are virtually identical with modern equivalents. More important these instruments- particularly the scissors, forceps, lance, and scalpel are almost identical with modern instruments. There are texts of Susrutha and Charaka which describe old instruments and the operations done at that time before and just after the beginning of the Christian era. Finding instruments at Polonnaruwa is a very great significance as it indicates that operations were actually done- and not just imagined.”
Prof Arjuna Aluvihare, Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya.