Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 39 By What Method the Bones and Cartilages of the Human Body May Be Prepared for Inspection

A system for soaking bones in lime and then cleaning them in a stream

Physicians who applied themselves properly to the Hippocratic art, who were born not just for scribbling about syrups 1 and imposing upon people, were in the habit of laboriously assembling bones for inspection, either joined together or separately, to assist in their teaching. It was their practice with a person dead of hanging or some other cause first to free the cadaver of of most of its flesh and to cut out the inner organs without taking apart any joint of the body. Afterwards, they would put the body thus dissected into a long box, filling the whole box with lime and then sprinkling some water on it. Later, when they had observed such a box for eight days, they perforated it with small openings on each side and tied it down in a rapid stream so that the lime together with the decaying remains of the flesh would wash out over time and leave all parts of the bones. 2 After several days, the cadaver was taken out and cleaned all over with knives, with care taken that no joint of the bones be separated in the process and that the ligaments binding the bones (by means of which they stay together) be kept whole while everything except the joints of the bones would be shiny. The cleaned cadaver would be exposed to the sun in whatever position they wished it to be seen, sitting or erect, arranged in this or that posture so that the ligaments would dry in the heat of the sun and hold the joints in that position. Besides being unpleasant, dirty, and difficult, this system of preparation shows almost none of the processes, epiphyses, heads, recesses, and other such features in the bones that must be viewed with particular care: all of these are still heavily overlaid with blackened ligaments, to such a degree that this means of cleaning bones is all but useless for study. In the same way, another laughable method for viewing muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, veins, and arteries (with which professors of our art until recently afflicted medical students) is of no use, but only interferes with the minds of scholars and keeps them from seeking a demonstration of these organs by the High Priests of the profession. 3 These authorities used to declare that the parts were to be learned only from bodies that have been reduced in running water (heaven help us) but not from the recently dead; as if anything worth learning could be learned in bodies so modified and totally ruined in this manner, 4 and as if the parts were not all much better demonstrated by us in a person recently dead than they are accustomed to do when pointing out the surface of the liver, the intestines, or the heart to students. But this too they taught quite ineptly, at the same time having nothing to do with the other parts of the body.



Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 39 By What Method the Bones and Cartilages of the Human Body May Be Prepared for Inspection