A series of 2,200-year-old Chinese texts, written on silk and found buried in ancient tombs, contain the oldest surviving anatomical atlas, scientists said.
Texts were discovered in the 1970s inside the tombs in the Mawangdui area in the south-central China. The tombs are owned by Marquis Dai, his wife Lady Dai and their son. Challenging to understand the texts, and they use the word “meridian” to refer to parts of human body. In a paper published recently on September 1 in the journal The Anatomical Record, a research team led by Vivien Shaw, a lecturer in anatomy at Bangor University in Wales in the United Kingdom, that these texts are “the oldest surviving anatomical atlas in the world.”;
Additionally the texts “both predate and let later acupuncture the texts, which became the foundation for acupunkure practice over the next two thousand years, “the researchers wrote in the study. by showing that the earliest Physicians who write about acupuncture are in fact writing about the physical body, “they added.
Related: In the photos: 1,500-year-old grave of a Chinese woman named Farong
Texts, written in Chinese characters, are difficult to understand. “The skills needed to interpret them are diverse, requiring the researcher to first read the original Chinese, and secondly to perform anatomical investigations that allow a re-examination of the structures referred to in the texts,” wrote. of researchers on paper.
But if you read the texts carefully, you will see that the “meridians” refer to the parts of the human body. For example, the text says (in translation) that a meridian begins “in the middle of the palm, passing through the arm between the two bones that follow along the tendon, travels below the root to the bicep, to the armpit, and connects to heart. Researchers assume that this description of a “meridian” actually refers to the pathway of the ulnar artery, the main blood vessel of the arm.
Another example from the ancient text describes a “meridian” in the foot that “starts with the big toe and runs along the medial surface of the foot and thigh. It connects to the ankle, knee, and thigh. It walks. with the adductors of the thigh, and covering the abdomen. “This” meridian “actually describes the” long vein pathway, “the canal that carries blood from the legs back to the heart, the researchers wrote. .
The team concluded that the texts “represent the earliest living anatomical atlas, designed to provide a brief description of the human body for students and practicing medicine in ancient China.”
Although the human body and ancestral remains were considered sacred in ancient China, the remains of lawbreakers were not always given this honor. Researchers believe that ancient Chinese medical researchers scattered the corpses of prisoners to help them understand human anatomy. For example, the Han Shu (Book of Han), a tome covering the history of the Han Dynasty, recorded the breakup of the criminal Wang Sun-Qing in AD 16, the researchers noted in the study.
To this day, the oldest known anatomical atlas of the human body is thought to have originated in Greece, made by ancient Greek physicians such as Herophilus (335-280 BC) and Erasistratus (304-c.250 BC) but most their texts are lost and known only from what other ancient writers wrote about them. As a result, Chinese texts are the earliest anatomical atlas survivors, the researchers said.
Related: Photos: Very small looms Found in Chinese tomb
Vivienne Lo, a senior lecturer and advisor to University College London’s China Center for Health and Humanity who is not a research member, said she was hesitant to use the word “atlas” to describe these texts, and thought that ” map “or” chart “is a more appropriate term. Lo says the term “atlas” is a term used more in the 17th and 18th centuries and seems inappropriate to apply to a 2,200-year-old text. Lo also noted that some of the findings discussed in the paper – such as the fact that prisoners were dissected to provide anatomical information – were published by other researchers previously.
TJ Hinrichs, a professor of history at Cornell University who conducted research on ancient Chinese medicine but was not affiliated with this research, also did not think that “anatomical atlas” was an appropriate term to describe these texts. Live Science reached out to other experts who were not affiliated with the research, but most were unable to reply at the time of publication.
Originally published in Live Science.