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WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN BIONIC

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UNFEELING LIMBS

Both functional and cosmetic rehabilitation were recognized in the early virtual history of bionic beings.What is said to be the first pros- thetic described in writing appeared two to three millennia BCE in the Indian Rig-Veda poem, in which QueenVishpla, having lost a leg in battle, replaces it with an iron one and returns to the fight. Other prosthetic devices have appeared in Greek mythology. Although Hephaestus, that limping Greek god of technology, did not use an artificial limb, he relied on a crutch and on the help of the golden assistants he had constructed. In an especially gruesome Greek tale, Tantalus, son of Zeus, killed and cooked his son Pelops and served him to the gods to see if they could distinguish between human and animal flesh.After Demeter, goddess of agriculture, ate Pelopss shoul- der, she atoned by restoring him to life complete with a new ivory shoulder. Prosthetics entered Greek culture in a different way in the fifth century BCE, when Aristophanesplay The Birds included a char- acter with a wooden leg.

Wooden replacements for legs and feet are among the earliest examples of real, as distinct from imaginary, prosthetic devices.About 440 BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the Persian Hegistratus, who was captured by the Spartans and held captive by having his leg locked into a wooden stock.To escape, he amputated part of his foot so that he could pull it through the hole, and later replaced the missing part with a wooden substitute.The Romans also constructed replacements for missing hands, and by medieval times, wooden peg legs or iron hooks had become the standard replace- ments for missing legs or hands.

There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about peg legs, but they were a simple way to support body weight.The same can be said of a hook in lieu of a hand; it gives limited ability to manipulate objects without matching either the look or the usefulness of a true hand. It was difficult for ancient artificers to make prostheses that both looked the part and acted it, but sometimes, cosmetic appearance and proper functionality could be combined. One of the older prostheses found

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