What does a Zalanthan know of anatomy?

Started by gfair, June 23, 2003, 06:07:07 AM

I've been wondering for some time what the average Zalanthan knows about anatomy.  Do they know terms like 'brain', 'heart', 'blood', 'lungs'?

We had humans in our own past a lot smarter than the average Zalanthan, but medical knowledge was far less advanced, almost on the level of elementalism, what with the four fluids and other quack science.

Can the staff elaborate on what a Zalanthan knows about their own anatomy?


I'd say definite yes to blood. I imagine they would know about brains (20 pound hammers on the skull and all) but might not call em that. Lungs and heart are tougher though, I wouldn't say all commoners would know them.

The heart and brain have been well-known organs since the Egyptians.  Of course, the Egyptians thought the brain was useless, and you thought with your liver, but, y'know.

I'd say the brain, heart, liver, stomach, kidneys, and intestines would all be commonly-known organs.  Probably the bladder, too.
quote="Larrath"]"On the 5th day of the Ascending Sun, in the Month of Whira's Very Annoying And Nearly Unreachable Itch, Lord Templar Mha Dceks set the Barrel on fire. The fire was hot".[/quote]

While I'm not staff (so ignore this as you will), I'm not sure I'm in complete agreement with Tony. In a culture where a fair number of people hunt, a knowledge of what organs are, if not what they do, is probably a good assumption. After all, you would EAT the heart in many cases, or use it for something else. Liver, spleen, kidney, pancreas - these have all been eaten regularly throughout human history. The assumption that humans would have the same kind of things isn't, I don't think, too big a stretch. Look at old literature, even back when dissecting human corpses was a capital offense, and you can still see references to organs, like the heart. Like this quote from Beowulf (found in one of the various online translations):

QuoteSore was the sorrow to Scyldings'-friend, heart-rending misery. Many nobles sat assembled, and searched out counsel how it were best for bold-hearted men against harassing terror to try their hand.

Now it's true that "heart" may be a modern word used for an ancient concept of an emotion organ, but this quote from a translation of the Iliad seems to be more specific with regards to a real anatomical organ:

QuoteNow when Eurypylus the brave son of Euaemon saw that Ajax was
being overpowered by the rain of arrows, he went up to him and
hurled his spear. He struck Apisaon son of Phausius in the liver below
the midriff, and laid him low.

After all, the Greeks had poor Prometheus chained to a rock with his liver being eaten every day, right?  :twisted:

Just a few stray thoughts from someone who really should be spending his time more productively. :)

Not the whole culture hunts though, most of the population just sits within the gates, dragging their load of hides or crafting their stones, so as far as common knowledge, I'd say no to most organs, PCs though would probably end up with a good amount of knowledge about the organs. Since you know, PCs tend to do more killing and hunting and prodding.

I think people know there is -something- in their body. Muscle's is pretty easy to understand, you work out they get bigger, you can flex them, etc. A heart and blood system is another. You have a pulse, arteries, your heart beats, more rapidly when worked up, and of course you bleed.

Now the brain is complicated. Id say if nothing else we consider the inside of our head the 'Mind' the part of the body that conducts and receives the psionic Way messages I've seen almost everyone rely on. The part that get's headaches when you use the way for too long, or any other reason. I dont think anyone would refer to it as the Brain... but then again they might. An uneducated commoner shouldnt, in my opinion.

Lungs and respitory system... we know we breath... I dont think we know we have two lungs, just that air is stored somewhere down the tube in our throat somewhere into our chest. We take deep breaths, etc etc.

Stomach... we know we eat. We get stomach aches, and from our stomach exits the remains the food as waste.

I dont think we realize suchs things as liver, pancreas, bladder, intestines, etc. Perhaps a doctor for some noble house, or some sick commoner that likes to dissect people could figure out more, but most people would know what they experience. The way makes us aware of something in our skull, bleeding, heart pounding; those make us aware of our heart, breathing makes us aware of our lungs, eatting makes us aware of our stomach, or something in our belly that can hurt and growl. (maybe a gortok!)

Anyways, thats all.

QuoteI dont think we realize suchs things as liver, pancreas, bladder, intestines, etc.

Livers and kidneys have been used as food for a long time.  Any society that eats meat is going to know what they are, even if they don't know what they do.

Bladders were used for everything from containers to toys.
quote="Larrath"]"On the 5th day of the Ascending Sun, in the Month of Whira's Very Annoying And Nearly Unreachable Itch, Lord Templar Mha Dceks set the Barrel on fire. The fire was hot".[/quote]

Usually people who don't know the proper name for something speak in generalities. For instance:

"The templar stuck 'im wi' his sword an his guts all came tumblin' out."
instead of
"The templar stabbed him and spilled his intestines, stomach, liver and gallbladder onto the ground."

So if your character isn't what you'd call educated in anatomy (Hunters for instance would know a fair amount about it as well as anyone with formal military training or who deals in crafting things made from body parts) just use generalities and I'd think you'd be ok.

As a society, I'd say that Zalanthans know that most major organs EXIST, and perhaps the top three or four whose injury will cause you to die quickly.  However, I imagine there are multiple WIDELY varying theories regarding how any of them work or what precisely they do.

So while the average artisan might have heard of a liver and probably knows they have a heart somewhere vaguely in the middle of their body, and maybe some grey goop in their skull (probably the same stuff they blow out their nose, but who knows), they wouldn't know much detail.  A skilled skinner/butcher, assassin, or experienced warrior might know a bit more about the heart, lungs, liver, or tasty things like kidneys; even in these cases, only a skinner/cook is likely to know what any of these organs even LOOK like from the inside...just vaguely where they are from the outside.

Determining exactly what an organ does even with advanced imaging techniques on a living person is hard enough.  Figuring it out from scratch on someone who is deceased and probably hacked in a disorganised manner is nearly impossible.  Particularly when (in the case of Zalanthans) you are almost certainly not really concerned or considering it.

i]May the fleas of a thousand kanks nestle in your armpit.  -DustMight[/i]

While I was reading through the responses, I saw Egypt mentioned.  In my opinion, Egypt is far more advanced than Zalanthas - they had a system of writing, knowledge of mathematics and engineering far beyond anything the average Zalanthan possesses, and much more.  Much of Egypt's medical knowledge is the result of three key things that are significantly different from Zalanthas:  grand-scale pyramids and other building projects, distinct laws against crime, and law enforcement.

Grand-scale projects - these projects produced thousands of injuries, all of which had to be tended to because workers were essential to the timely construction of the pyramids.  Early medicine was developed thanks to the physicians treating these repetitive wounds and learning the behaviour of the body from them.

Laws and law-enforcement:  Laws in Egypt were far more advance, as was the Egyptian legal system, complete with courts, a mature code of law, and the enforcement necessary to carry out judgements from the courts.  When a body was found, it was taken to a coroner, people were questioned, and suspects brought in.  The existence of coroners was significant to early medicine, because again these coroners, over their careers, were witness to a lot of similar injuries and developed significant knowledge.

My opinion of Zalanthan anatomical knowledge is similar to Savak's - there might be one guiding, superstitious belief, or several, but I wouldn't think there would be many.  

On another note then, how about anatomical terms like brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc.  Is mentioning those terms appropriate in the game?

Well . . . yes and no.  Ancient Egypt was more than modern Zalananthas, but I'm not so sure that it was more advanced than Ancient Zalanthas.  Zalanthas is a post-apocolyptic world, things are a lot more primitive than they used to be.  

Many of the good roads and impressive structures are ancient.  Some of them are even pre-Dragon.  I believe that pre-apocolypse Zalanthas may have been very advanced.  It was likely pre-industrial, no cars or computers, but science, medicine, engineering and advanced mathmatics are very possible, plus non-defiler magick.  

That knowledge wasn't necessarily totally destroyed by the Dragon.  Scraps were preserved here and there.  The Sorcerer-Kings colected what they could, then locked it up and made literacy illegal so they could hoard the knowledge for themselves.  In the cities there probably isn't much advanced knowledge of any kind outside the circle of the Nobles and Templars.  Some of the secrets of the ancients may have been preserved in some of the commoner families, but this would be almost more superstician than science.  Some families may take care to keep wounds clean to prevent infection, or even ritualistically was their hands before eating, but their neighbours probably think they are nuts for "wasting" water and money on something so trivial.  

In the tribes some ancient lore may have been preserved and passed down through the loremasters, shamens, storytellers, and wise elders of the tribe.  At this point some of it will have twisted into meaningless gibberish, memorized by rote and perhaps even given religious significance.  Memorizing calculus formulas may make you sound wise and mystical to the rubes, but it really isn't going to be useful to people who live in hide tents.  Still, I wouldn't be totally surprised to find wise women and shamens among some of the tribes that are as skilled (or more skilled) than the physicians in the cities, or even than 19th century European physicians.

The Secrets of the Ancients are always handy plot elements in primitive settings.

I'd say that major organs would be named,even if most people don't know what they do.  You can't have steak and kidney pie without steaks and kidneys.  On the other hand, things like the limbic system and the nervous system are probably a mystery even to well-educated Zalanthians.  Some skilled magicker-healers may be able to sense these systems directly, so there could be information about them in the great libraries of the Templars, but it is information that very few people would have any interest in.

Treat the other man's faith gently; it is all he has to believe with."     Henry S. Haskins

Yes, it is obvious in the world that Zalanthas was once home to a much more advanced civilization then at present, but that's the point - not at present, not at the street level.  If any of the old knowledge was preserved, it would have been sought out and horded by Templars, or maybe even the kings themselves.

I could see the tribes maintaining knowledge through storytelling - the best real-world examples I know of that are Beowulf, and the Kalevala.  Those have been handed down.  I wonder, though, if the knowledge handed down would actually remain as knowledge, or turn rather into tradition.  People don't know why their ancestors washed their hands before a meal, but they always washed their hands, and it is tradition to do so.

Also, in place of water, you can clean your hands with sand, though that requires the use of a cloth afterwards and it isn't a sure thing, but a healthy scrub with a clean cloth would work.

Which brings to mind another question - how in the world does soap work in Zalanthas, is it a different form of soap, or do people actually use water?

But that reminds me of an old thread where I thought the scarcity of water would rule out all use of water but for drinking.

While the individual parts may be named, I don't think they've been combined, as in a steak and kidney pie, they would more likely be eaten like the Inuit do, or some other countries where people eat the ENTIRE beast, from its organs, to its cheek meat, to its brains, eyes, joints, bone marrow, etc.  They aren't picky, but they associate certain parts with strength.  Certainly, the beast would be so valuable that the entire beast would be carved up and used (which reminds me - so few meals include those more exotic parts in the taverns I've seen).

But now that we know what the average Zalanthan would know, I sure would love to go nuts with some whacky superstitions.  You must ingest rocks, rocks make you strong! In the words of a famous TV character, "Sweeeeeet!"