The day when my hominid ancestor Owongo was stung viciously by a hornet with a mean expression and angry red markings marked the beginning of medical science on Earth.
It happened like this.
Owongo felt the prick and then he felt the pain and then he howled and then he looked to see what manner of gigantic satanic beast had assaulted him, only to see the greedy green eye of a hornet as the creature rose to the skies and zoomed off, making the kind of noise he would have expected a toy helicopter to make had any such thing been invented back then.
He rubbed his wound, and examined it minutely. It was on his willy, which was quite possible bearing in mind he went everywhere as naked as the day he’d been born, but the location did make examination simple enough â€“ it would have been a totally different affair had he been stung, for instance, on his bottom. Then he would never have experienced the bright light of invention in his primitive mind, the one that was about to illuminate his thoughts wonderfully, because he would have seen nothing of his injury.
Now then, a bit of science here might help, though Owongo,of course, knew nothing of science. In order to see something small clearly you can either make it look bigger via the gift of a magnifying glass (not available in primeval times) or make the small object actually bigger and thus render it more easily seen.
Only the second option was possible back then.
Bearing in mind where Owongo had been stung and his natural reaction of rubbing it, the entire region (ladies, forgive me) expanded hugely, and the pinprick hole left by the hornet’s sting was greatly enlarged and thus plain to see.
â€œAh,â€ sighed Owongo, still massaging his painful sting, â€œI see what has happened. That damned hornet, may all the spirits from the underworld damn it, made a hole in my skin and passed noxious poisons into it! I am doomed and my willy will possibly fall off! Curse the creature!â€
And the light came on.
Assuming he survived his ordeal and his willy remained properly in place, he could use his new knowledge to his advantage.
Some diseases were rife in his community, and it was well known that a tincture rendered from the boiling of the bark of the willow for ages in water from the stream until that water turned turgid helped as a palliative and a medicine, though neither words were actually known back then. They called it Sprin and got close to worshipping it.
Once the pain had subsided to a manageable throb he rushed home to Mirumda, his exceptionally hideous wife, and she took one look at his bright excited eyes and even brighter excited willy and accused him of having an affair.
He did, of course, try to club her over the head, but it never worked on account of her being remarkably agile for one so gross, and then he went on the explain all about the hornet and the pain (which he exaggerated after the manner of menfolk everywhere and at all times) and insisting on Mirumda’s examination of the wound (which he proceeded to show her and which she peered at with such closeness that it looked like some sort of perversion), and concluded by saying he had his best idea yet.
Now, in those days there was a particular fish (it is now, I suspect, perfectly extinct) that had evolved to be really light so far as weight was concerned by having hollow bones, and Owongo knew all about them seeing as they provided his people with a goodly part of their diet when the hunting of rodents was poor.
He went to work. He caught a fish, gave Mirumda the meat as a treat and carefully removed a very fine bone from its skeletal remains. It was a finely hollowed bone, and he blew on it to make sure it wasn’t blocked.
Then he went to the back of the cave where they stored their most precious things, and chief amongst them was the aforementioned tincture distilled from the boiled bark of a willow, Sprin. If rubbed on wounds it was most efficacious when it came to the healing process. But there were some injuries, internal ones, and it did little good there, though it could be drunk in small quantities, but it gave the drinker an upset stomach and severe vomiting.
Owongo took the bottle and went to the cave next door where a child was close to death.
He pushed the child’s parents to one side, filled his mouth with Sprin and, using the tiny fishbone he had stolen from the fish he made a hole in the child’s skin (he chose the upper arm) and blew a tiny quantity of the Sprin, through the fishbone, into the poor boy’s body.
The effect was remarkable.
The boy recovered, grinned broadly and then a day or two later developed septicaemia around the site of his injection, and died of that instead.
Â© Peter Rogerson 29.03.12