Medical Needles for Couching the Cataract

These are reconstructions of medical needles used for couching the cataract, as described e.g. by Aulus Cornelius Celsus in his book De Medicina. One is massive, the other made up of two parts, forming a syringe style needle when the inner part is removed and was possibly used for removing the lens by suction. Both originally come from an undated find (such needles would have been available from the 1st century AD at the latest) from Montbellet, France, and are part of a set of five.


Construction details: this is where I (partially) cheated a little. The original has both the thick, spiralled and the thin, ca. 3cm syringe-like needle (it does have a 2mm hole at the tip) in front of it made by rolling flat bronze sheets so that they form a pipe (or a hollow point for the needle). I did that for the needle, but the spiralled pipe is a massive brass rod with a hole drilled through. From my experience with the needle itself, though, I think I could have done the thick part like the original as well ...

The spiral inlay was done by creating the channel to receive the silver wire with a goldsmith's saw as this is a curved surface rather than a flat one. A punch for hammering the wire into the channel proved to be the most convenient method, but I did it with a small hammer alone on the other, massive needle shown.


  • Feugere, M., E. Künzl and U. Weisser (1985) - Die Starnadeln von Montbellet (Saone-et-Loire) - Ein Beitrag zur antiken und islamischen Augenheilkunde - Les aiguilles a cataracte de Montbellet (Saone-et-Loire) - Contribution a l'etude de l'ophthalmologie antique et islamique, Jahrbuch des romisch-germanischen Zentralmuseums (Mainz) 32, 436-508.