5
$\begingroup$

In my project, humans have gone extinct on Earth, and about 5 million years later, wolves have adapted to roughly human levels of intelligence, alongside raccoon-like front paws for grasping. The wrowga, as they call themselves, live mostly in a habitat placed on what is today the British isles. The present Ice Age lowered sea levels and connected them to the continent, and they are currently comprised of tundra and boreal biomes, with a mainly Dfc Köppen climate type, but also Cfc along the rugged western Irish shoreline and ET on higher altitudes. The wrowga structure themselves as multiple nomadic packs comprised of around 10-15 individuals, that represent the family unit, with rare exceptions. They make their technology out of what they have access to, which is mostly animal resources (leather, bone, fur, tendons, blood) from prey such as the wurgwraer (very large antlered cervid) and haanwraer (wooly wild boar), wood and stone. One of the main things I thought of them making is catgut sutures for medical uses, but looking into it, it seems that the process to manufacture these things is very complex and requires materials and chemicals they probably would have no access to, so, could any of you come up with a way for the wrowga to make sutures? Is it even possible? Thank you for reading, any feedback is appreciated.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You mean catgut cord? The suture is what surgeons make with the catgut. (And catgut cord was produced since the deep antiquity. The strings of the lyre used by Homer to accompany the recitation of the heroic feats of Achilles were made of catgut. It does not require any special chemicals except some caustic potash, which they would need anyway for making soap, and which was also produced since the deep antiquity. Burn vegetable material, leach the ash with water, add slaked lime.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 22, 2022 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I do, and thanks for the help. $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2022 at 16:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ One of my cats caught me reading this and forced me to look up catgut. Much to our mutual relief, multiple sources explicitly stated that catgut does not come from cats. $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2022 at 8:32

1 Answer 1

6
$\begingroup$

Catgut cord was produced since the deep antiquity. It was used originally to make the strings of stringed instruments. Galen (2nd century CE) describes using gut cord for sutures.

Here is an Egyptian woman playing a lyre, with catgut cord strings.

Ancient Egyptian lyre
Picture from Wikimedia. Public domain.

How do I know the strings were made of catgut cord? Because it is the only suitable material they could make. (Direct references appear only much later, in the classical civilization. Still in the Antiquity, but not so deep.)

To make catgut cord, you take the small intestines (of sheep, usually), clean them, scrape off the fat, and let them sit in water. Then scrape off the outer membrane, leaving only the inner wall. Place them in caustic potash, let them sit, then wash with water. You now have the pure fiber. Draw the fibers to equalize them, and, optionally, twist several of them to make string.

The only chemical needed is caustic potash, which today we know is potassium hydroxide. To make caustic potash (most usually for the purpose of making soap), burn vegetable material, then leach the ashes with water. Add slaked lime (calcium hydroxide, but they didn't know that in the Antiquity). Decant the liquid, which will be a solution of caustic potash. Boil or evaporate the solution to get rid of (part of) the water, depending on how strongly alkaline you want your caustic potash.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Downvote because you didn't tell us the song she was playing. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 22, 2022 at 16:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Willk: I have an older version of Shazam which doesn't work on ancient Egyptian frescoes :) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 22, 2022 at 16:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are frescos from Pompeii showing one of the Troian war heroes being patched up with what looks like catgut. The frescos themselves are dated to 1st century BCE or early 1st century CE but there are convincing arguments that they are copies from earlier Greek paintings from 3rd or 4th c BCE. So it seems catgut sutures were known at least at least that time. $\endgroup$
    – Archelaos
    Jan 22, 2022 at 17:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .