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Amulet to protect against health problems, Germany, 1701-1900

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This large coin-like object was one of a series of German healing ‘alchemy coins’ which were carried in the belief that they provided protection against disease and ill health. Coins of this size were generally known throughout Europe as ‘thalers’ – which is the basis for the word dollar. This one is marked with a number of alchemy symbols and claims to be made of the “seven metals” of alchemy – which are lead, tin, iron, gold, copper, mercury and silver. On the front of the coin the main inscription translates from the German as “For Flux, Cramps and Erysipelas when it is carried by people”. (Flux was a name given to dysentery; erysipelas is a bacterial skin infection.)

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Glossary: cramp

No description.

Glossary: amulet

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

Glossary: dysentery

Infectious disease with symptoms including diarrhoea, bleeding, and abdominal cramps. It spreads in contaminated food and water, especially in the tropics.

Glossary: alchemy

A form of medieval chemistry that incorporated aspects of philosophy. It was concerned with transforming metal, particularly into gold, and potentially creating an elixir to prolong life.

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).