Before the advent of modern medicine, injuries as simple as a scraped knee posed a significant risk of infection. Ancient Indian surgery had a highly skilled field dedicated to tending wounds, known as Shalya Tantra. It advocated that foreign bodies like dirt, hair, and bone needed to be removed from the injury. The wound had to be cleaned before sutures were applied.

The Egyptians were skilled at treating injuries (They were quite familiar with bandages). Their medicine system was one that combined beliefs around magic with empirical observation. They would treat wounds with honey, and a papyrus scroll dating to around 1650 BCE details at least 48 types of injuries. Honey was useful for its antibacterial properties. Along with other substances, the Egyptians used lint and grease, which are still helpful in treating wounds today. Both the nature of injuries and their treatment feature heavily in civilizations such as the Norse. Gunnlaug’s saga Ormstungu tells of a warrior who has his ankle twisted and bandaged. Viking skeletons from the era show this was a shared experience, with many having healed or partially healed fractures and cuts.

Modern surgical techniques became more common in the 18th century. Surgery began to be seen as its own distinctive medicinal field during this period, with breakthroughs such as antiseptics. The introduction of antibiotics would prove vital in reducing mortality from wound infection, and today there are over 5000 wound care products.

Artist: Dayanna Knight

A child with a scraped knee.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Click here to learn more about what this license means

Thiss means you are free to: Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format; Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material. As long as you: Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made; ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

Credit: Dayanna Knight and Open Past

Want more images?

We will be publishing more images in the coming months. If you would like to be alerted when they are published, please subscribe below.

Consider Donating

All images are FREE, thanks to our funders. If you enjoyed them and want to help us make more please consider donating. Our goal is to get 100 people to donate 5 $ or £ or € month so that we can commission new drawings each month.

Progress: 3 of 100

Click the donate button and either give a one off donation or sign up for monthly donations. Please leave your email in the notes so we can thank you. Any help is appreciated. Thank you!