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What Was a Medieval "Wound Man"?

Medicine in the Middle Ages was not as primitive as one might think - knowledge of the human body, or of sophisticated medicinal remedies, was actually very common in Medieval Europe. Hospitals in the East during the time of the Crusades helped Western crusaders understand the intricacies of the human body, and when they returned back to Europe they took with them the medicinal knowledge they had learnt in the Holy Land (J. R. Smith, 'The Crusades: A History'). Information about disease, medicine, remedies and surgery became wide-spread in Europe, and it was likely that even the poorest of peasants would have had knowledge of how to treat various maladies like headaches or sores!

By the early 1400s, Johannes Gutenberg had invented the printing press and it changed the history of medicine forever. No longer relying on cures that had been passed down through families for generations - and were often misinterpreted, unreliable or completely wrong! - the printing press enabled people to have all their medicinal information in one place. And with the birth of printed books came the birth of the medieval "Wound Man", an anatomical diagram that helped doctors understand how to cure ailments or tend to wounds.

In the Middle Ages illiteracy was common, and the majority of the population could not read. Even doctors and surgeons were often illiterate, so the diagram - which clearly showed each body part or organ - could be understood by anyone. These particular "Wound Men" depict examples of injuries inflicted by a variety of weapons, but others depicted diseases and how they affected the human body, or remedies and what body parts they soothed. It was often common to see wound men with broken hearts too!

"Wound Women" were also common in the Middle Ages and they specifically focused on obstetrics, menstruation and gynaecology. By the time of the Renaissance, when human dissections were vastly gaining popularity, "Women Women" became even more common, often depicting a child in the womb, or explaining childbirth complications.

We still have "Wound Men" around today, but in a much more modern format - the next time you're sitting in the doctor's waiting room, keep an eye out for posters explaining the human body, and think about the medieval "Wound Men"!


Smith, J. R., "The Crusades: A History". (Bloomsbury: 1987).

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