Most of the time when we build with the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System, we take a piece of clay and fashion it into a certain shape as brachialis or supinator or whatever we to study.
But what’s inside the muscles? Well, quite a bit. We are sure you know that.
But even the components of the muscle can be fashioned using the same hands-on process. In fact, this is one exercise where you don’t necessarily need one of our cool models, just some clay.
Recently, Anatomy in Clay® founder Jon Zahourek gave an “Introduction to Human Muscles” workshop to the Denver Anatomy Meetup.
Just as he does with teaching any class using the Anatomy in Clay® system, the students were fashioning clay with their hands within minutes after the start of the gathering.
The idea was to help students understand the essential architecture of muscle. Even the smallest components of musculature are better understood if you fashion them with your hands. Macro or micro analysis, it’s all the same process of letting your hands understand the shapes and the way pieces connected.
The first strands looked as skinny as angel hair pasta—individual muscle fibers (the myocyte).
Then, the groups of muscle fibers are rolled up in the fascicle. Jon and the Meetup students built and discussed all the components—the perimysium (connective tissue), the epimysium (the fibrous tissue that surrounds the muscle), and the variety of muscle types and the variety of ways in which the muscles attach, too.
Each bundle of muscle fibers forms a muscle fascicle and, during the Meetup, Jon mentioned how the group of fibers reminded him of the old Roman symbol of authority, the fasces.
Now, bear with us for a moment for a brief detour from anatomy to an interesting footnote about old Roman symbols and, yes, World War I. (Hey, this is a blog we can go where want to go.)
If you’re old enough or if you’re a coin collector, you reminder the old Mercury Dime that included a “fasces” on the “tails” side. (The “heads” side was a young Liberty with a winged cap.) The U.S. Mint stopped producing this coin in 1945 in favor of the one with Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Anyway, a tidbit about the “fasces.” Fasces is Latin for bundle. Presumably, it’s a bundle of all the same things. Originally, a ‘fasces’ was an axe made with a large bundle of wood sticks lashed together (much stronger than a lone stick, right?).
The fasces became a symbol of great strength. The fasces were carried by so-called “lictors” who followed magistrates around, with the fasces representing the fact that the magistrates had the ability to carry out capital punishment. Again, you know, the ax. Yikes.
Putting that symbol on the dime on behalf of the United States was designed to represent the country’s strength.
The guy who designed the Liberty dime did so, by the way, three years before the rise of dictator Benito Mussolini, who adopted the same symbol for his brutal reign, giving “fascism” the terrible connotations it carries to this day. Without Mussolini, perhaps, the word “fasces” could have lived out its days as a benign term.
So as you’re building muscles with your hands, and contemplating the miracle of human movement, feel free to think about Roman authority and the wooden handle on your ax.
Those bundles give our muscles strength, one skinny fiber at a time.
Final thought: If you’d like to join our Denver Anatomy Meetup (we’ve love to have you), head here: https://www.meetup.com/Denver-Anatomy-Meetup/