The prosthesis hypothesis
April 14, 2018 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Archaeologists Find Ancient Knife-Hand Prosthesis On Medieval Warrior: Even more fascinating than the survival of this man in an era before antibiotics is the possibility he had a unique prosthesis. Micarelli and colleagues examined the ends of the man's forearm bones and found that "there may have been a biomechanical force placed on the stump," such as the pressure of the bones against a prosthesis. The paper: Survival to amputation in pre-antibiotic era: a case study from a Longobard necropolis (6th-8th centuries AD) (pdf)

The authors conclude: This Longobard male shows a remarkable survival after a forelimb amputation during preantibiotic era. Not only did he adjust very well to his condition, he did so with the use of a culturally-derived device, along with considerable community support.
posted by mandolin conspiracy (35 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Come to think of it, the "preantibiotic era" is most of the show
posted by thelonius at 9:32 AM on April 14 [9 favorites]


Come to think of it, the "preantibiotic era" is most of the show

An era that sadly we may be entering again soon.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:33 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


As seen in the Arms and Equipment Guide (edition 3.0). "Your opponent cannot disarm you of a stump knife."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:35 AM on April 14 [12 favorites]


Merle Dixon Represent!
posted by valkane at 9:36 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I wonder if he ate with it. Medieval people of both sexes ate with knives, often personal knives for the purpose (if they were fancy). You can imagine this dude spearing and eating chunks of meat out of the pot. How this would be received in polite company — well, I don’t know how polite his company usually was.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:40 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Misread that second link as "The Longbeard Necropolis" and was like oh no, you don't want to go digging there. The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep, and woke the Nameless Terror.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:57 AM on April 14 [13 favorites]


"In a discovery worthy of the WalkingEvil Dead,"
ftfy
posted by phooky at 10:08 AM on April 14 [22 favorites]


Misread that second link as "The Longbeard Necropolis"

Somewhat disputed, but "Longobard" is widely understood to mean "long beard." So you're pretty much right.
posted by Rust Moranis at 10:15 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


Groovy!
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 10:15 AM on April 14 [12 favorites]


The true origins of the military “knife-hand”, exposed at last!
posted by corb at 10:26 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Well, I hope they like Balrogs then.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:34 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he ate with it.

At least his dinner companions would know that he hadn’t wiped with that hand....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:37 AM on April 14 [11 favorites]


At least his dinner companions would know that he hadn’t wiped with that hand....
Ah, I see you've played "Knifey-Spooney" before…
posted by Pinback at 10:46 AM on April 14 [16 favorites]


See also Götz von Berlichingen, who had less knife but more amusing profanity.
posted by sukeban at 10:53 AM on April 14


"Not only did he adjust very well to his condition, he did so with the use of a culturally-derived device, along with considerable community support."

Heh. "culturally-derived device." I like how clearly the authors are trying to contain their excitement and not be all "BUDDY HAD A SWORD HAND YOU GUYS!" so their study will be taken seriously, but also this is probably the exact the kind of awesome stuff you hope to find when you go into archaeology.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 10:55 AM on April 14 [28 favorites]


Blacksmith: Fear not for your missing appendage, good fellow, I have fashioned this fierce apparatus in its stead.

One Armed Guy: What a marvel! Would you say that this is culturally derived?

Blacksmith: WHATETH THINE FUCKE IS WRONGETH WITH THOU?!

Community: Back off, we support him considerably.

Blacksmith: ok, back to horseshoes, I guess.
posted by dr_dank at 11:04 AM on April 14 [46 favorites]


It is said that the prosthetic hand guy would frequently meander through conversations and, when asked "have you got a point?", raise his arm and say "you're god damn right I do!"
posted by mr. digits at 11:06 AM on April 14 [17 favorites]


As seen in the Arms and Equipment Guide (edition 3.0). "Your opponent cannot disarm you of a stump knife."

On the other hand (as it were), in GURPS 4th edition, page 147, it discusses replacing a missing hand with a low-tech prosthesis:
A hook or claw also counts as an undroppable large knife in combat (use Knife skill), and gives +1 to Intimidation skill if waved at your foes
Clearly hook trumps stump knife.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:26 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


"Stabby the... Longobard medieval warrior" doesn't have quite the same zazz.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:56 AM on April 14


oh yeah, like some of you other fine meta folk, i was totally thinking, CHAINSAW hahaha
posted by lapolla at 12:02 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


This article is really cool but the framing is sort of weird. Doesn't "the pre-antibiotic era" include everything up till roughly World War I? They performed plenty of amputations before then - I'm no huge history buff but I know battlefield medics were lopping off limbs for hundreds of years before antibiotics were invented.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:02 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


His name was clearly "Edward", not "Stabby". They just didn't bury him with his scissors prosthesis.
posted by dazed_one at 12:37 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Additional evidence for a prosthesis comes from the man's teeth and shoulder... Both of these suggest that he was "tightening the prosthesis with his teeth."
posted by salvia at 1:50 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


One of the oldest known examples of an amputation/prosthesis comes from an Egyptian mummy who had a prosthetic toe. That a toe amputation was successful in that area/culture does not surprise me- as the Egyptians did use honey medicinally as a treatment for wounds, and honey has anti-microbial/antibiotic properties. Also it’s a toe; less surface area. I’m wondering if the success of this medieval amputation is also due to a traditional medication that had anti-microbial properties?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:11 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]




"Forsooth...this fabricator, hast it talent enough for furnishing anything of value?"
"Anything twixt its stead-"
"-Begone! Such a sort could fashion any guise that wouldst please it, such as...a smoker's stave?"
"Nay...only an object of equivalent breadth."
"So why canst it hurl trebuchet ordinance or such upon me?"
"It has naught of talent for crafting engines of elaborate nature...counterweights and incendiaries haveth catalysts, segmented points of articulation. Such methods wouldst be more as folly. And yet...it canst furnish objects of hardened metal shapes."
"Such as?"
"Knives and stabbing weapons."
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:42 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


This article is really cool but the framing is sort of weird. Doesn't "the pre-antibiotic era" include everything up till roughly World War I? They performed plenty of amputations before then - I'm no huge history buff but I know battlefield medics were lopping off limbs for hundreds of years before antibiotics were invented.
posted by showbiz_liz

Next war. You're thinking of WWII. But even at the end of that war the era was just beginning and the antibiotics missed being available for war injuries. It is said that if both Roosevelt and Churchill had come down with an infection that only penicillin could cure they would have had to pick which one to save because at that time they couldn't make it in sufficient quantity to have saved both of them. There were sulfa-drugs slightly earlier but they only started being used for infections in the late thirties and only kinda count as antibiotics as they were still only figuring out they could be used that way.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:15 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


One of the oldest known examples of an amputation/prosthesis comes from an Egyptian mummy who had a prosthetic toe.

You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude.
posted by andrewpcone at 5:31 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


Additional evidence for a prosthesis comes from the man's teeth and shoulder... Both of these suggest that he was "tightening the prosthesis with his teeth."
This is what really stuck out to me. This prosthesis required so much adjustment that it wore down his teeth on one side. Living with this thing must have been agony. I remember reading a laconic sentence somewhere (maybe in Marc Bloch?) that most people in the Middle Ages were in pain most of the time.
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 8:04 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


This is oddly similar to the plot of Crocodile Dundee III: Now That’s a Knife.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:10 PM on April 14


So this is the original knifeman, beloved of headline writers everywhere.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:12 PM on April 14


Puts the story of Nuada or Llud of the Silver hand into perspective.
posted by xarnop at 9:31 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


You guys should check out The Last Kingdom, season two! We binged it yesterday, and, uh, it has a guy! I'll say no more other than how crazy it was this was the last MeFi post I read before I started watching.
posted by mllm at 11:21 AM on April 15


Yeah Mllm I was going to also suggest the Last Kingdom. Shows what life might have been like with one hand in that era, especially as a Viking Leader.
posted by koolkat at 9:17 AM on April 16


posted by mandolin conspiracy

Eponysterical?
posted by goshling at 11:38 PM on April 16


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