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Bone, England, 1870-1909

The growing influence of biomedicine in the 1800s did not necessarily replace established forms of treatment based on belief and superstition. What could be referred to as folk medicine – customs that often went back generations – continued to be practised. For example, carrying around this piece of bone was believed to be a cure for rheumatism (aches and pains in the joints), transferring the pain from person to stone. Edward Lovett (1852-1933), a collector of British amulets and charms, acquired this piece of animal or human bone in Brandon, Suffolk, England in 1909. Part of Lovett’s collection was purchased by Henry Wellcome in 1930. It is pictured here with two other bones used as a ‘cure’ for aching joints (A79960 and A665266).

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    Glossary: amulet

    Small object or piece of jewellery worn as a protecting charm to ward off ill health and bad luck.

    Glossary: bone

    The very hard and dense connective tissues that join to form the skeleton. Made of collagen fibres and bone salts.

    Glossary: rheumatism

    A disorder where aches and pains affect the muscles and joints.

    Glossary: biomedicine

    The name given to the medical practice that is based on the sciences of the body, such as physiology (the functioning of the body).