The Ancient EMT’s Handbook for the Road


The famous Silk Road brought more than just commercial trade throughout the ancient world.  The Silk Road historically is estimated to have started around 202 BCE and continued on well into the 14th Century in influencing the economic prosperity of Asia, Western and Central Europe and even Africa.  

Different accounts are given where the Road started, ended and routes it took with general agreement that the Road started in Europe and streamed through China and even Japan.  Travelers traveled routes that stretched more than 4,300 miles, multiple mountain ranges and passes, barren desserts, desolate plateaus and went through multiple trade routes including maritime and land based.   

The countless travelers undertaking this harsh road did have a profound influene on the prosperity, cultures, customs, food, religions and languages of the many travelled countries.  Not well known was the exchange of disease that took place such as in the 14th Century when the Black Death plague was brought to Europe through the Silk Road.  Nevertheless, during the many years of exchange different health treatments were offered for the various illnesses and disease that came from exposure to different lands including the use of plants, creams, potions and concoctions.  Although most of these prescriptions and recipes for better health were most likely offered at the end of the day around campfires or markets, there is evidence that a few remedies were written down and sold to travelers. 

Small pocket-sized handbooks printed in ancient Arabic on leather are still found having remedies of that time.  Little is known where these remedies originated from although Persian and Chinese had long worked with plant-based medicines.  Also not known is where or who sold these pocket references to travelers.  To be sure such references became critically important whenever anyone on the trip came down with a medical problem.

Enclosed are several photos of such a reference.  This reference could be placed in a large pocket and was made of hard leather on the outside that could easily be carried on long trips.  The words seen on this manual are ancient Arabic that is difficult but not impossible to translate for a student of the Arabic language.  In today’s setting, this pocket handbook could be described as a pocket Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) reference. 

Clearly more study of this reference and others is needed to fully understand how well its’ contents addressed the travelers needs on the Silk Road. What is clear is the Silk Road had an influence on the Western World in many different ways including healthcare. 


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