Claudius Galenus (called "Galen" by his peers) was the greatest surgeon in the world back in the second century AD, which is a little like saying he was the "classiest stripper in Atlantic City." Galen's contemporaries, after all, were convinced that arteries were filled with air, which gives you some idea of how useful they were when you were bleeding to death. And Galen himself was a huge advocate of bloodletting, and was the first doctor to prescribe "bleeding it out" as a perfectly reasonable way to cure headaches.
Just a few more pints and your dandruff will be gone forever!
Yet Dr. G was also the first guy who popularized ligature as a method of stopping uncontrollable bleeding. Ligature, for those of you who aren't in the medical know, is tying up a bleeding artery, vein or pee valve. Before Galen there was only one treatment for deadly bleeding: Cauterizing. Sounds all right, unless you know that "cauterize" is Latin for "burn it shut."
Also known as "arson on your arteries."
As the chief surgeon for wounded gladiators in Pergamus, Turkey, Galen was the first to stop a hemorrhage by tying the injured vessel closed. And he got so good at zipping fools up that the mortality rate of his charges was next to nothing, which rightfully made him famous. His technique revolutionized medicine...
Or it would have, if the world hadn't completely forgotten about it for the next 1500 years.
How Could We Have Forgotten It?
By the Middle Ages, no one was doing the ligature thing. Not only was cauterizing the only way to deal with bleeding valves, Europeans decided to one-up the barbarism by full-on pouring boiling tar on the injury rather than using a hot iron. BOILING TAR.
Well, lots of brilliant stuff was forgotten during the Dark Ages, like the shape of the Earth and how to bathe. In Medieval Europe, touching a sick person was a no-no--you'd probably feel the same way if 60 percent of the people in your universe died of the plague. So instead of tying an injured artery closed, the surgeon just burned it shut with a long metal rod. Or poured BOILING TAR on it.
Meanwhile, the Islamic world actually embraced Galen's treatises, and kept his immense legacy alive while the Western world got progressively stupider. But they had their own problem: Getting all up inside a sickie's veins wasn't kosher, or whatever the Islamic word for kosher is, and the Muslim world that loved so much of Galen's other teachings let this one little remedy go the way of the pulled pork sandwich.
It wasn't until 1575 that a French surgeon re-popularized Galen's idea about ligature and people started getting their tie on again--a whole lot of dead patients and an ocean of spilled blood later.
A hedge? Like, a bunch of bushes in a row? Why would people remember a hedge?
How about if it was approximately 2,000 miles long?
Such a thing existed in India once upon a time, and it was probably big enough to be seen from space. Why would somebody bother to plant a hedge that ridiculously huge? Well, salt used to rule the world. It was so valuable it was often used as currency, and for centuries, despots who wanted to grab a country by the balls only needed to control its access to salt. The British East India Company, for instance, brutalized India for decades with a crippling salt tax. There was only one problem: Salt was totally accessible to anyone willing to travel to either coast during the summer. Because the salt just sat there in the evaporated ocean bed, begging to get mined, boiled and tossed on your giant mall pretzels.
Salt & Human life
So the British East India Company came up with an evil-genius-caliber solution to prevent salt smuggling: They hired demonic gardeners to raise a living, impenetrable wall of thorns that became known as the Great Hedge of India. The Great Hedge was immense: If there were a hedge running from San Diego to Vancouver, it would still be shorter (although it would contain almost 160,000 times more discarded granola bar wrappers).
For 40 years this big bush acted as the blocker of free salt. Yet once it was dismantled, its memory totally disappeared from India and Britain's collective consciousness.
They remembered the hot, sword-wielding chicks though.
How Could We Have Forgotten It?
At some point in the 1880s, the Great Hedge was dismantled twig by twig, reworked into tasteful patio furniture, and then burned. Probably gleefully. And for more than 100 years, no one bothered to record or even mention it in any of the definitive accounts of India's history. As any hedge aficionado will tell you, it's tough out there for a hedge; even the best hedges have a rough time getting any play in the mainstream media.
By 1995, The Great Hedge of India was entirely forgotten, and it might have stayed forgotten indefinitely, if not for one librarian: Roy Moxham. Moxham followed up a footnote in an obscure text and re-discovered evidence of a 1,500-mile long hedge--a hedge that happened to be associated with a hated initiative of a brutal regime--that had inexplicably slipped the mind of an entire country.
About 300 years before Baby Jesus was born, the Romans wrote their name in the sidewalk of history as the perfecters of concrete. The new building material quickly won a following, and even spurred something of a revolution, which was dubbed "the Concrete Revolution" by a historian who was himself dubbed "least creative dubber of all time" by us.
It wasn't long before dicks were drawn in it.
It was during this revolution that the Romans perfected the arch, the vault and the dome, not to mention underwater architecture, which allowed Rome to bless the Empire with aqueducts and dams. And guess what? Head on over to Europe and there's a good chance you can still see some of this stuff.
But what we don't see are concrete dams, bridges and Pantheons from the Middle Ages, because, once again, something that the Romans figured out was immediately forgotten by an entire society of ADHD sufferers: The Europeans of the Dark Ages.
It wasn't until 1756 that concrete was rediscovered and quickly applied to another revolution:
The skating revolution!
How Could We Have Forgotten It?
They lost the recipe.
But to be fair, unless we're specifically talking about medieval Italians who lived near Vesuvius or other volcanoes, they weren't going to get the recipe right in the first place. Because the key to Roman concrete was the use of volcanic ash called pozzolana. The ash served as a binder so effective that, with a few steel reinforcements, would still be as durable as modern concrete. We can only assume that architects from the Middle Ages tried to mix up their own batches, left out the crucial volcanic ash, then cried themselves to sleep over the watery sidewalk stew that they ended up with. Eventually, they abandoned the formula altogether - presumably chocking up all those buildings people still lived in every day as some sort of pagan magic.
Finally, in 1756 a British engineer figured out that how to use something called hydraulic lime (you god damn British and your lime) to get the concrete party stared once again, and the rest is rebellious pre-teen and aging burnout history.
Skateboarding is not a crime! Maybe it should be.
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