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Travel Notes in Italian Somaliland

Louis H. Gray, Giuseppe Stefanini
1924 Geographical Review  
THE following notes are put together under the somewhat unique conditions of field service in Somaliland. They may be, possibly, of some interest to readers of our Journal, especially as they refer mainly to the art and practice of surgery among the Somalis, who in many ways are a very strange people with stranger manners and customs. The men are probably the most conceited of mankind, though what they have to be conceited about is not very apparent. As a rule they are ugly, even for blacks,
more » ... even for blacks, and are skinny and of poor physique with little muscular development. On the other hand, their women are strong and well developed and, when young, plump and comely. The men do not work, the little work that has to be done, such as loading up camels, carrying water, &c., is done by the women, while the men lie under a tree looking on. 'l'he men are all armed with spears-one for throwing and one for stabbing; these weapons no doubt help to subdue the" weaker" sex. I have met several Somalis who have had surgical operatiolls performed on them by their friends. One case, a transport man at Bohotle, had had his leg amputated by the Somali method. He had been kicked by a camel, and from his description I concluded he had sust,ained a compound fracture of the tibia, which had suppurated. His friends, having assembled a "Punch" (meeting), decided that an amputation was necessary and proceeded to remove the leg by the following method: The patient was tied on the ground with ropes, his hands being secured behind his back, then the anresthetist proceeded to deal him a heavy blow on the back of the head with a log of wood, which they say" make him sleep," and certainly would have the effect of rendering him insensible to pain. The operator 'next proceeded to cut off the leg with a spear head, rubbing in ashes and binding on leaves tightly to stop the bleeding. The patient did not regain consciousness for some hours after the operation was completed. When I saw the man at Bohotle he was well and going about on a crutch; the operation had produced a very pointed stump with a piece of bone protruding. The leg had been taken off six inches below the knee joint, evidently at the seat of fracture.
doi:10.2307/208311 fatcat:tlnqrwxx5jeyjmh4dbnb3wijwy