TRADITIONAL MEDICINE OF THE PEOPLE OF AFRICA

From Big Medical Encyclopedia

Materials of history of the people of the African continent significantly supplement our ideas of a way of mankind in general, since its first steps. The solution of many problems of history of Africa is complicated due to the lack of written monuments, to-rye remained only at the nek-ry people living to the south of the Sahara (in languages of a songaa, house, Swahili, nubian, etc.), and 2 millennia AD are reliable, as a rule, only concerning events of the second half. That bigger value is gained by the archaeological and paleoantropologichesky materials which are quite often allowing to establish the level of development not only material culture, but also the social relations, spiritual life historical African about-in to check theories and guesses «on stones of archaeological monuments». At the same time interpretation of archaeological materials in the conditions of modern African reality quite often gets ostropolitichesky sounding. So, the Rhodesian government of white minority officially promoted revival of the buried theory about not African origin of culture of Zimbabwe long ago. In turn, some African scientists unreasonably try to present Africa the center of all main achievements of an antique civilization.

The excavation which is carried out in 1950 — the 1960th the English scientist Liki (L. S. Century of Leakey) in Tanzania, and then expeditions under the direction of R. Leakey, Liki (M. of Leakey), etc. in various countries of East Africa in 1960 — the 1970th, led to sensational opening, to-rye on the value are beyond midland problems and throw new light on process of anthropogenesis in general. Open for L. Liki the oldovaysky archaeological culture (bone residues of humanoids and very primitive instruments of labor — roughly pointed pebbles, splinters of stones) gave the grounds to many specialists to recognize Africa as an ancestral home of the person and to consider that his formation began not later than here 2 million years ago. The subsequent archeological finds generated the concept, according to a cut the beginning of this process is removed in depth of times to 3 million, and then and to 4 million years. Besides, Africa was the only region where all known stages of development of the person — from his most remote ancestors to the person of modern type are attested and all stages of development of stone tools — from an early paleolith till the Neolithic (the beginning of penetration of the pithecanthropus from Africa to Eurasia and distribution it is carried there by the time of 900 — 700 thousand years ago). At the same time it was broken (excavation in Jaua-Fteaj's, Libya cave; near Pietersburg, the Republic of South Africa) traditionally accepted chronological sequence of change of the pithecanthropus and angelic culture (uniform on all Old World where it keeps within time frames 500 — 300 thousand years ago; near the Oldovaysky gorge — finds are 1 million more senior than years and more) the Neanderthal man (Middle Paleolithic) and the Neanderthal man the person of modern type (late, or upper, a paleolith). In this regard the opinion is expressed that the Neanderthal man not only preceded the modern person as a stage of his evolution, but also during certain time coexisted with it that temporary limits of mustyersky culture and cultures of a late paleolith are imposed at each other and that the Neanderthal branch of development of the person could be the deadlock of evolution.

About 35 thousand years ago Homo sapiens (homo sapiens) lived already everywhere. Archaeological data demonstrate that during era of an upper paleolith North Africa where not only the earliest verkhnepaleolitichesky, but also earliest neolytic culture — ibero-mavrsky (in the territory of modern Morocco and Algeria is open becomes the leading region of the continent; the most ancient find is dated time 13 thousand years ago). Apprx. 10 thousand years ago the first experiences of agriculture began, apparently, (in the valley of Nile). According to modern data, in North Africa onions and arrows for the first time appeared; in 7 — 6 the millennium BC together with the African bone harpoons they extended in the Middle East. The most developed neolytic cultures of cattle-farmers and farmers are found in the Central Sahara; the ceramics here appeared much earlier (in the 7th millennium BC), than in Egypt and in other territories of the Mediterranean region of Africa. Here the Tassilin-Adzhersky culture with a set of rock drawings of animals, people, chariots, scenes of hunting, war, ritual ceremonies (the most ancient images belong to the 6th millennium, they reach exclusive esthetic perfection in the 4th millennium BC, surpassing in this respect the rock drawings found in East, South Africa and in the Middle East) and the stone sculptures of animals most ancient in Africa is found. Comparison of nek-ry data of modern historical science leads to S. Ya. Berzin (1977) to a conclusion that tribes of the Central Sahara originally were ahead of Egyptians by ways of bystry development of productive forces and creation of the state. If history knows only Ancient Egypt, and the great civilization of Tassili did not take place, then, considerably, fault to that is drying of the Sahara and education here, since 3 millennia BC, deserts. From now on ways of history of North Africa and Africa to the south of the Sahara dispersed. So, e.g., the people of the last, apparently, did not know a bronze age (the exception makes the center of culture of bronze which developed in 1 millennium AD in the territory of modern Mauritania). The famous English researcher of history of the African culture Deyvidson (V. of Davidson, 1975) notes that process of formation and resettlement of the people of Africa took place in conditions when effective bonds with the outside world were interrupted or reduced to a minimum and everything that managed to be preserved from the most ancient fund of the ideas of the Stone Age was necessary to apply to a new situation. There are, however, also other points of view.

So, the prominent Soviet africanist L. E. Kubbel (1978) holds the opinion that in the nature of the being available intertribal and interstate contacts it is necessary to look for a clue of specifics of development of the people of the continent. In any case the originality of a historical way of the people of Africa is obvious; the reasons of this originality — a constant subject of discussions in historical science. But, as it is fairly emphasized with the Soviet historians, it does not give the grounds to tell about «a special way» (according to nek-ry researchers-africanists) evolutions human about - in to the South from the Sahara and to remove their evolution for a framework of uniform world-wide and historical process.

According to archaeological certificates, for tens of thousands of years on the main part of the African continent the tools characteristic of an average (are made by bilateral processing) and a late paleolith coexisted, i.e. preservation here of the most ancient technology of processing of a stone obviously dragged on. Therefore it is possible to consider that at a stage of a late paleolith a certain loss of rate of economic and technical and social development in comparison with the countries of the Mediterranean and the Middle East began to come to light. This lag of the people inhabiting the territory of Africa to the South from the Sahara was obviously outlined by the turn of our era. It was sharply designated already in the second half of our millennium, in particular in connection with distribution of a slave trade (on a nek-eye to calculations, it exsanguinated Africa, having taken away from it apprx. 100 million people — taken away or the dead during «hunting» for them), gradual European colonization that led to change of a natural way of development of the people of the continent, the colonial partition of Africa.

The Nek-ry information about the people of Africa, since antiquity acting as the periphery of an eykumena (i.e. a manned part of Earth), contains in works Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, Roman, Arab, and since an era of great geographical discoveries — and the European scientists, travelers. So, still written certificates on pygmies of area of sources of Neil, development belong to antiquity to-rykh was at a stage of the appropriating economy. At the same stage pygmies, Bushmen and nek-ry other nationalities of Africa are and now, but as writes Yu. M. Kobishchanov (1974), it is possible to call the public structures created by them «„primitive" only in the sense that they carried on gradually degrading tradition of a primitive-communal system».

Separate data on medical and sanitary aspect of life of Africans occur in the works of historical and geographical character written in the ancient time. So, «the father of history» Herodotus who for the first time acquainted a classical antiquity with Africa as the continent noted, describing the country of «long-lasting Ethiopians» (a kingdom the Jackpot in the territory of modern Sudan in 6 century BC), «that most of Ethiopians reaches 120-year age, and some live even even longer. Their food is a boiled meat and milk... If this water (source) really such as speak, then perhaps, longevity of Ethiopians just and depends on the fact that they drink it... The body of the dead man is dried up on the Egyptian way or somehow differently... At last, the mummy is placed in a hollow column from a transparent stone... The mummy which is in a column clearly is visible, but does not extend a fetor... At the same time (painted) mummy looks absolutely similar to the dead man. The whole year the family of the dead man keeps this column in the house, offers it a share at each entertainment and makes a sacrifice. Then the column with a mummy is taken away and put in the country».

Herodotus wrote about residents of Libya: «These Libyan nomads — whether all they (I cannot authentically claim), but, in any case, many — treat children here is how: to four-year-old children they cauterize dirty sheep wool of a vein on a darkness (and some — even on temples). ., that the phlegm which is flowing down from the head in a body did not do them harm in all further life. Therefore they, according to them, are exclusively healthy. And really, as far as I know, Libyans differ in the best health among all people (however whether for this reason, I definitely cannot tell). In any case — they are the healthiest people. On a case of spasms with the child during cauterization they have remedy: they sprinkle the child with goat urine, and spasms pass. However, I transfer only stories of Libyans».

In Strabo's «Geography» (the beginning of our era) customs of burial at tribes of Northeast Africa are described: the helonofag living on the coast threw out dead men «on eating up to fishes; corpses pick up and carry away sea inflows»; nomads are cave men, to-rye «not only spoil the body, but some are even cut off like Egyptians», buried «the dead men, having tied a neck of a corpse to legs rods from a paliur, then with cheerful laughter they immediately threw corpses with kamenye until bodies it becomes visible; then, having put a goat horn on a heap of stones, leave»; inhabitants of a kingdom of Meroe «dead men... throw out... to the river, others hold houses, having concluded in a transparent stone; others, at last, bury them in clay coffins around sanctuaries...». In «Natural history» of Pliny the Elder (1 century AD) there is a reference to the message of Yuby — the governor Mavretaniya famous for the scientific works — that in Atlassky mountains on S.-Z. Africa «the grass the eufobiya called so by name the doctor who opened it grows. Having devoted it the separate book, Yuba eulogizes its white as milk, juice which aggravates sight and is good antidote». The similar fractional information, being of private interest, do not create, of course, a complete picture of medico-hygienic knowledge and representations of the ancient African people.

Already the numerous and detailed descriptions belonging to a feather of European travelers belong to Modern times. In the majority they, in the same way as the Hellenistic works, are a source, difficult for treatment. Through a prism of author's views and prejudices, on a trope of N. A. Erofeyev (1977), Africa is presented to them as if «in the kingdom of curve mirrors». At the same time sources of 19 century and later create in total a picture of the medical representations typologically close to representations of the African people in the ancient time that is confirmed p by certificates of antique, and also medieval Arab travelers. Thus, the concept «the ethnographic present» is applicable to the African traditional medicine (this term is standard for a symbol of the medical knowledge and practice which developed in Africa even before arrival of Europeans), i.e. the observed picture, apparently, was almost same and far back in the past, many traditions strongly remained and the latest stratifications did not make radical changes.

The traditional medicine as a part of spiritual culture of the people of Africa to the south of the Sahara at all regional distinctions has much general. The attendants of a cult and other persons who were considered as intermediaries between the world of people and the supernatural world were engaged in medical practice, as a rule. Their duties in traditional African about - Vakh were various; maturing of a harvest, hunting, a wedding, the birth, a disease, death — all most considerable moments of life were followed by religious and magic ceremonies, in to-rykh they played major roles. It is possible to distinguish three basic groups from them: priests, soothsayers, sorcerers. The institute of hieratic priesthood gained big development, in particular in the Western Africa — at the people of Upper Guinea, the lower reach of Congo, in East Africa — in Mezhozerye where rather early there were state educations with the centralized form of the power.

So, for example, in the kingdom Buganda (arose in 15 century) priests made the isolated exclusive part about-va, received rich gifts, owned grounds, slaves and the cattle, were exempted from payment of taxes; the most crucial decisions quite often depended on their opinion. Having lost former influence, the priestly layer kept a part of the functions, including medical, at many people of modern Africa. Priests of the people of an ashanta can be an example of the «professional methods» used at the same time, to-rye during cult action fall into a trance and «communicate» with ancestors, deities or spirits. At nek-ry other African people «communication» with otherworldly forces is carried out through the intermediary — the medium, lips to-rogo the ancestor or spirit broadcasts; the priest, in turn, interprets the speech of the medium, explains his actions made in a condition of a trance. At one African people along with priests soothsayers are engaged in medical practice, to-rye, using various magic receptions, define the reasons of misfortunes, including diseases, predict future, give advice, including medical; at others doctoring — business preferential of sorcerers, to-rymi become after the long period of craft training.

According to traditional representations, evil spells of sorcerers, the anger of ancestors which is quite often caused by offense of the most sick are an etiology. It is characteristic, e.g., that in the Ethiopian medico-religious literature of a disease are not treated as something other than other vital difficulties, misfortunes, to-rye daily accompany the person: the same text may contain and to lay down. recommendations, and the magic formula helping «to take away an eye of a devil», to upset intrigues of enemies, to avoid prison, to get money or the devoted wife etc. The trust of the population to force of charms, spells and amulets is explicit more significantly, than the belief in to lay down. possibilities of rational medicine. Therefore treatment is followed by certain rituals and spells, it is considered that without them the medicine will not work. Frequent and the medicine is formed according to magic instructions, in particular by the principle «similar is treated by similar».

So, for treatment of skin diseases, at to-rykh skin becomes spotty, select leaves of the same color; for treatment of diseases of eyes use a medicine, eyes of birds of prey are a part to-rogo. Respectively in bags of sorcerers it is possible to find powders from combinations of various herbs, leaves, flowers, and along with them — «exotic» means: the dried-up lizards, feathers of a parrot, an eye of a rooster or owl, a jaw of a monkey etc. At a boundary of 19 — 20 centuries treatment of veins. diseases in Ethiopia it was carried out as follows: the patient had to eat on one piece from 12 parts of a black goat — from the head, a stomach, a liver, a kidney, a spleen, legkogabout etc. that had to cause recovery. An effective medical method at Ethiopians immersion in «holy water» of sources at large churches and monasteries traditionally is considered.

At the same time in traditional M. extensive national experience of treatment of various diseases is accumulated by rational means and methods. According to modern researchers, the African sorcerers with success apply several thousands of types of medicinal plants (leaves, flowers, seeds and bark of trees, juice and roots of plants) at treatment of diseases of eyes, hearts, went. - kish. diseases, frustration of a nervous system, snake stings, burns etc. So, e.g., at complaints to heartbeat, sorcerers of the people bakongo prepare a medicine from leaves of Brillantasia patula (Acanthaceae), leaves of Piper umbellatum L. (Piperaceae), seeds of Gardenia spinosa (Rubiaceae) with addition of ovalbumin and water. Sorcerers of the people of group Akan apply the toning tinctures from Fleurya aestuans (Urticaceae), Piper umbellatum (Piperaceae) and leaves of cocoa; the broth from Taraxacifolia (Compositae) having diuretic and antiseptic properties; at an anemia — broth from Pycnauthus angolesis (Miristiceae) of u Bosqueia ceugloleasis (Noraceae). In Ethiopia drink from dry flowers of a tree slantwise, in particular as a helminthicide was widely adopted. In the therapeutic purposes use also noxious plants, however in these cases add certain correctives to them. So, at dizzinesses sorcerers bakongo give to drink to the patient with a medicine from the roots Hymenocardia acida Tui. (Euphorbiaceae), by all means add lemon juice to Krom; at ponosa apply Erigeron floribundus (Compositae) or bark of a tree of mango with indispensable addition of egg.

Are among popular medicinal medicines also added some salt red siliculose pepper decoction with addition of palm wine, to-ry apply to decrease in high temperature of a body. Dried grapes syrup is considered good cure for a diarrhea, at diseases of joints — broth from a celery, at cough — onions with sugar; at gallstones — luccu oil. The seeds of pumpkin pounded in soft gruel and diluted with milk apply as a children's helminthicide. For treatment of heavy burns use fresh blood. Traditional M. widely applies revulsives. E.g., doctors of Ethiopia in case of pneumonia did a number of small burns on a breast or the heated iron, or coal (sometimes used hollow reed, to-ry filled with the boiling oil). Bloodletting, use of cans were standard. In case of bleeding, and also at stings of snakes and scorpions, cauterization practiced. At diseases of joints, fevers waters of hot springs were used.

Many surgical receptions are known to the African sorcerers: processing paradise, splintage of changes, craniotrypesis etc. The doctor and the traveler Felkin observed performing Cesarean section by the sorcerer of Ganda in 1876. It so describes seen: «On a mat the young woman, about 20 years, deafened by palm wine lay. The sorcerer inclined over it suddenly cried and opened with one sharp movement an abdominal cavity from a navel to a pubic union. His assistant right there prizheg the bleeding edges of a wound red-hot iron. Then the sorcerer opened a uterus... The child was quickly pulled out, cut off an umbilical cord and the sorcerer started removal of a placenta. At the same time it strong held a uterus until it was not reduced. Edges of a wound again prizhgl to prevent bleeding. Then the patient was carefully turned sideways to facilitate an exit of waters from an abdominal cavity. After the end of operation of a wound sewed up by means of 7 polished iron needles and thread. The sorcerer put some crushed roots on a seam, covered with a banana leaf and tied up». Doctors of Ethiopia deleted the inflamed palatine tonsils with nails of index fingers (for this purpose nails were specially let grow). At treatment of changes and dislocations tires from a tree were used. Amputations of extremities, and not only but to medical indications, but also as punishment for various crimes, including theft were skillfully carried out.

The African traditional M. used sedative properties of many plants long before they were included in the European pharmacopeia. So, e.g., Nigerian sorcerers in cases of a hyperphrenia of the patient long since applied tincture from the roots Rauwolfia. In the practice sorcerers use the receptions reminding methods of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. As the expert on the African traditional medicine Gelfand notes (M. of Gelfand, 1964), sorcerers, to subtleties understanding life, customs and beliefs of the tribespeople (that the family quarrel or some deviations in sexual behavior, etc. helps them to define an actual reason of a stress, whether it be), give invaluable help to patients at various psychotic states, to-rye are followed by fear, uncertainty and other neurotic manifestations. Mentally sick in the African village isolate only in extreme cases; as a rule, they continue to live with members of household, constantly feeling attention, care and sympathy for themselves of sorcerers and fellows villager. The factor of «inclusiveness» in everyday life of the village favorably affects their state.

Traditional M. accumulated also considerable experience of fight with having infected with diseases. In Ethiopia epidemics of natural smallpox often devastated the country, and the population lived in dread of them. The original national way of variolation of smallpox was developed. The eyewitnesses observing at the beginning of 19 century inoculation live smallpox i: prusy, describe it as follows: numbers of patients chose the strongest boy and isolated it until until pustules ripen. Then the Aesculapian collected contents of pustules in an egg shell and parted with chalk or oil. To the person, to-ry he agreed to undergo inoculation, did a crosswise cut of skin on the forefront of a forearm, and then by means of «a magic staff» a small amount of the prepared material was entered there. Such inoculations described by many Europeans often had forced character. According to Binns (1975), sorcerers of one of the tribes living in Nigeria also within several centuries with success applied antismallpox variolation. As soon as someone in the village got sick with smallpox, sorcerers brought together all relatives of the diseased p did to each of them a small section on a hand, rubbing in it the pus taken from the patient from smallpox pustules then covered a wound with honey. In quite often such way it was possible to prevent epidemics.

Also quarantine measures were undertaken. So, during epidemics of cholera, smallpox, flu and other infections in Ethiopia the movement of people from the struck zone in other parts of the country stopped, on border of this zone the armed policemen were put. During large epidemics the emperor with the yard, and also a prosperous part of the population left the capital and moved highly to mountains.

During epidemics of smallpox cruel measures accepted the Gaul and Somalis: at detection of the patient with smallpox in some house this house was burned.

Receptions and the measures of fight against infectious diseases which had a rationale «get on» in traditional M. with the most fantastic ideas of their nature. So, the African scientist O. p'bittek (1979) writes that, on beliefs central Luo — the people of East Africa, epidemic and an epizooty of plague and others epid, diseases (they are called «dzhok») are sent by an assemblage of the dwarfs moving at night on those settlements, inhabitants to-rykh wallowed in envy, rage and other defects.

Thus, the traditional medicine was a concentrate of national experience in the field of medico-hygienic activity, in Krom both empirical knowledge, and religious concepts accompanying them are reflected; it, undoubtedly, became M.'s basis numerous peculiar to a civilization, to-rye at different times developed in many regions of the continent — from Algeria to South Africa, and about to-rykh it is necessary to judge hl, obr. on archeological finds (they become more and more every year). At the beginning of 2 millennia BC, according to archaeological data, there were primitive forms of statehood in the territory of modern Sudan. Afterwards there were powerful states the Jackpot (the 2nd millennium BC), Napatskoye (1 millennium BC), and then Meroitskoye of a kingdom where in the territory of the capital (Meroe) in 6 century BC iron-smelting furnaces operated. In the territory of the neighboring Ethiopia there was a state Axum, presumably in the middle of 1 millennium BC, left us grandiose obelisks — steles with texts on drevneefiopsky and other languages. In the west of the continent, in adjacent territories of modern Mauritania and Mali, in 4 century AD there was a state of Ghana, a cut in the Arab text of 9 century is called the country of gold (it was delivered to the countries of the Mediterranean).

On the Guinean coast, in the territory of modern Nigeria, the archaeological culture of NOC is found: the found terracotta heads of the expressed African type, sculptural images of animals, jewelry of pearls, fragments of iron products are carried to 900 BC — 200 AD. The successor of culture of NOC, obviously, the city-state of Ife was (blossoming in 14 century), achievements of culture to-rogo are demonstrated by sculptures from a terracotta and bronze, ceramic pavements. In South Africa in 1 millennium AD there was a culture of Zimbabwe; emergence here of the state, began a zolotorazrabotok and stone construction carry to 8 century. Unfortunately, the modern science has no the data allowing to reconstruct the systems of medical representations and medical practice which developed in ancient African civilizations to the South from the Sahara yet.

About Ancient Egyptian M. — see in the following section — « Meditsina of ancient civilizations ».

Other sections of the article "Medicine":

  1. Introduction
  2. Emergence of medicine and its development in primitive society
  3. Traditional medicine of the people of Africa
  4. Meditsina of ancient civilizations
    1. Meditsina of civilizations of the Ancient East
    2. Meditsina of civilizations of ancient America
    3. Meditsina of a classical antiquity
  5. Meditsina in feudal society
  6. Meditsina Modern times (17 — 18 centuries)
  7. Meditsina 19th centuries
  8. Meditsina 20th centuries
  9. Meditsina of the people of the USSR
    1. Meditsina of the people of Transcaucasia
    2. Meditsina of the people of Central Asia
    3. Meditsina of the people inhabiting the European part of the USSR during an era of feudalism
    4. Meditsina in Russia in the 17th century
    5. Meditsina in Russia in the 18th century
    6. Meditsina in Russia in the first half of the 19th century
    7. Meditsina in Russia in the second half 19 — the beginning of the 20th century
  10. Meditsina in the USSR
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