The Discovery of Blood Circulation



Throughout history and in various cultures the beating heart was always considered anatomically, metaphorically, and symbolically to be a major organ. As early as the prehistoric period (Magdalenian era to 15,000 years BC) the heart seems to have been represented on the painted rocks in the Pindal cave (Spain): a splash of red in the centre of a painted elephant can be interpreted as a primitive cardiac symbol. In the terracotta tablets from the King’s Assurbanipal library in Assyria (700–453 BC) the spurt of blood is described as the liver. This organ was used during animal sacrifices to read oracles. The term “circulation of blood” can be found early in the ancient Chinese medical literature. However, the mechanism was attributed to the opposite forces of the Yin and Yang. Egyptians (Eber’s papyrus, 1550 BC) believed that air inhaled through the nose went to the heart and lungs to be distributed throughout the body. However, they did describe the concept of a pulse. Alcemeon of Crotona (500 BC) described the difference between arteries and veins.


Pulmonary Vein Pulmonary Circulation Tricuspid Aortic Valve Prehistoric Period Painted Rock 
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© Springer-Verlag Italia 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cardio-vascular SurgeryRangueil University HospitalToulouse, Cedex 09France

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