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In pharmacies, mortars were used to crush a variety of substances and to make certain forms of prescription drugs, such as: emulsions, ointments and powders. The presented mortar comes from 1562. It has a conical shape and is made of bronze. Its decoration is a plant motif – acanthus leaves – with the year 1562 placed among them. An additional ornament...

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In pharmacies, mortars were used to crush a variety of substances and to make certain forms of prescription drugs, such as: emulsions, ointments and powders. The presented mortar comes from 1562. It has a conical shape and is made of bronze. Its decoration is a plant motif – acanthus leaves – with the year 1562 placed among them. An additional ornament of the mortar consists of two symmetrically placed handles, in the shape of dog heads with long necks.
Mortars were made of various materials. The oldest ones were hollowed in tree trunks and in stones. Until the eighteenth century, the metal commonly used for mortar casting was the alloy called bronze, containing copper and tin. Such mortars were covered with patina, due to the content of copper (25%). In the 18th century, brass began to be added to the castings (an alloy of copper and zinc). Cast iron mortars also began to be produced. Furthermore, ivory, porcelain, and precious stones – such as marble, agate, alabaster, granite, and onyx – were used for the production of mortars.


Elaborated by the Museum of Pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, © all rights reserved

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Renaissance apothecary mortar from 1562

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