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An Ancient Mesopotamian Herbal

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An Ancient Mesopotamian Herbal explores the deep history of plants in traditional medicine and offers a groundbreaking reassessment of existing research.


Author: Barbara Böck, Shahina A. Ghazanfar, Mark Nesbitt, 200 pages, 20 black and white illustrations, 234 x 156 mm. Hardback, ISBN 9781842467985,  Kew Publishing, 2024. 

Throughout the world, traditional medical systems continue to be important to healthcare. They vary greatly in their underlying beliefs, but almost all share the use of herbal medicines as a central practice. Ancient Mesopotamia – the area of modern-day Iraq and adjoining regions – offers a special opportunity to study such medical practice in antiquity. Many thousands of clay tablets survive, some over 5,000 years old, bearing texts relating to life in the past.

Drawing on the expertise of Assyriologists, botanists and archaeologists, An Ancient Mesopotamian Herbal explores the deep history of plants in traditional medicine and offers a groundbreaking reassessment of existing research.

Combining methods from the humanities and science, the authors provide a concise overview of ancient Mesopotamian culture and herbal lore, along with new identifications of Assyrian and Babylonian herbal medicines, focusing on 25 case studies.


Barbara Böck is Senior Researcher at the Spanish National Research Council. She is author of several books on ancient Mesopotamian divination, magic and medicine, among them The Healing Goddess Gula: Towards an Understanding of ancient Babylonian Medicine (Brill, 2013).

Shahina A. Ghazanfar is an expert on the flora and vegetation, conservation, and plants of economic importance of the Middle East and has published extensively on these subjects. She is a senior botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and is author of Plants of the Qur’ān (Kew Publishing, 2023) and Flora of Iraq (Kew Publishing).

Mark Nesbitt is a Senior Research Leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Visiting Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London. Prior to joining Kew he spent 15 years studying the archaeology of plant use in southwest and central Asia. He has wide interests in the history of useful plants and is the co-author of Just the Tonic: a Natural History of Tonic Water (Kew Publishing, 2019).

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