People didn’t look after their teeth in Tudor times. The men of the Mary Rose had a lot of cavities, and missing teeth. The surgeon would act as the dentist. However, the only real treatment he had for toothache was to pull the teeth out with pliers, often without anaesthetic.
The surgeon would try to mend broken arms or legs, using splints to help the bone heal. If this didn’t work, he might have to amputate, cutting off the damaged arm or leg. Luckily, this wasn’t done very often.
There was no effective anaesthetic at the time, so the surgeon would have to work very quickly. The surgeon would use sharp tools to cut through the flesh and bone, then would seal the wound with heat to stop bleeding.
The theory of the four humours was an ancient idea, still popular in Tudor times. It wasn’t until the 1800s that it was abandoned.
It was thought at the time that there were four liquids in the body; blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. These were called the ‘humours’. It was believed that people became sick when the liquids were out of balance.
One of the ways a surgeon could try to keep a patients’ humours in balance was to bleed them. This was done by opening a vein and catching the blood in a bowl like the one found on the Mary Rose.