Ear probe

Culture: Cypriot

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: Other: 6 1/2in. (16.5cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76

Accession Number: 74.51.5491


This bronze ear probe, one of the instruments most frequently mentioned in ancient literary references, consists of a simple probe and a small narrow scoop. The Roman physician Galen (ca. A.D. 129–199/216) tells us that when foreign matter could not be removed from the ear by more simple methods, it was necessary to make an incision behind the ear and remove the matter by means of such a scoop. This instrument also would have been used for applying medicaments, especially to the eye– liquid applications were poured from it and semi-solid ointments were applied with the back of it. The back of the scoop also was used for retracting flesh and in other minor surgical procedures.
The sharp end of the ear probe was used to instill liquids into the ear. A large ball of wool saturated with the liquid medicament was wrapped around the middle of the probe. By squeezing the wool, the liquid was directed down the shaft of the instrument and into the ear.