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Blood Lore and the Origins of Life

Our blood is the most important part in our body that gives us life. Without it, our body will not receive the nutrients it needs to function properly. The importance of blood in our lives cannot be overstated and in her new book, Nine Pints, Rose George examines the history of blood and its connections to the origins of the earth and of life itself.

“The iron in our blood comes from the death of supernovas, like all iron on our planet,” she writes. “This bright red liquid ... contains salt and water, like the sea we possibly came from.” George charts the distance that our blood (as her title suggests, we contain, on average, between nine and eleven pints of it) travels in the body every day: some twelve thousand miles, “three times the distance from my front door to Novosibirsk.” Our network of veins, arteries, and capillaries is about sixty thousand miles long—“twice the circumference of the earth and more.”
Ancient peoples knew none of this biology, but they were certain of blood’s importance and fascinated by its mystery. For them, blood was something hidden—visible only when flowing from a wound, or during childbirth, miscarriage, and menstruation—so it became a symbol both of life and of death.

(Image credit: Max Guther/The New Yorker)


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