Medicine: Kushumma & Kushippu

With his stylus of sharpened reed, the physician made neat, wedge-shaped marks on a clay tablet, carefully compiling a pharmacopoeia. His calligraphy was better than most doctors': he got more than a dozen formulas on the two sides of a tablet little bigger than a modern picture postcard. Then the sands of the desert covered the great Sumerian city of Nippur (90 miles southeast of Babylon), and the physician's secrets were lost for thousands of years.

Last week the University of Pennsylvania announced that after many years of effort, one of its scholars had...

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