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History

Prehistoric doctors

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Nothing is known for certain about the sort of person who might have tried to cure you of disease in prehistoric times. But by studying the rare sources that have been found, and the few remaining primitive peoples of our own time, it is possible to produce a picture of what the very earliest healers might have been like.

Overview

aborigine head

Early 19th-century engraving of Mackabarang, also known as Broken Bay Jack, an Aborigine from New South Wales

It's unlikely that prehistoric people had amongst them anyone that we would recognise today as real doctors. However, if they were like the primitive peoples of more recent times, such as Australian Aborigines, they probably did have witch-doctors to turn to when they were ill. The witch-doctors would have combined healing with other spiritual functions.

Probably - although they may well have treated illness in ways that sometimes caused a cure - prehistoric peoples did not have even the concept of curing illness through medicine that we have today.

Prehistoric doctoring provides the base point from which we can measure the progress of medicine through succeeding ages.

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