Experts have been unable to understand the origin of the practice of routine male circumcision. Most of the literature shows no awareness of phimosis - its frequency - or the sexual and erectile problems which can be cured by circumcision. If routine circumcision had been introduced for this most obvious reason of eliminating difficult foreskins; then the importance of an alternative modern method, suitable to our culture's attitudes in this day and age, would be clear.

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The Significance of Circumcision
Partial circumcision is the oldest culturally practised routine operation. This operation is the foundation stone of surgical tradition in Western medicine. Consider the cultural importance of circumcision from the point of view of medical development in Western cultures. Compare this with traditional chinese medicine which never uses surgery and never practiced circumcision.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes how : "The origin of the practice is unknown . . the quite widely preferred early use of a stone knife rather than a metal one suggest the great antiquity of the operation" (34). It is generally acknowledged that routine circumcision originated among the hunting tribes in the late stone age previous to the beginning of cultivation. This dates the origin of the practice between 12,000 and 50,000 years old.

It has often been suggested to me that the Jews must know why they circumcise. The Encyclopaedia Judaica itself states that "its origin is shrouded in mystery" (33). The operation originated in pre-literate times, the Biblical tradition is a relatively late development. No culture which performs the rite traditionally can state the origins of the custom in any way which explains it to the scientific thinker.

It would be more than a little naive to imagine that our Stone Age ancestors were chaotic barbarians, such a common custom must have an intelligence, or at least a sense in it.

The modern anthropologist regards circumcision as an unsolvable mystery. Modern theories assume that the practice was based on a number of combined factors.

Phimosis was refuted because a) the natural peoples did not appreciate the association between the penis, semen and fertility (anthropologists assumed that the problem with phimosis is that it hinders semen emission) and b) phimosis is thought to be a rarity, however this opinion was established previous to any statistical studies.

Modern writers never mention phimosis. Since 1960 any discussion of phimosis as origin for circumcision has vanished from the books.- (The ommission by Bettelheim and Eliade`s Encyclopedia of Religion being notable recent examples).

The Independant Origins
Though the operation sometimes spread, part of the puzzle is the independent origination of the practice in a great number of completely separate areas of the world.

Added to which there are a great variety of ancient methods used to free the glans from the enclosing foreskin. see Ancient Methods of Genital Modification

For Detailed Background Information

General background literature see Advised Anthropological Literature

Phimosis Through the Ages: An index and general summary of the anthropological texts which mention phimosis.

Phimotic Discussions is a discussion of Ploss and Bryk, and summarises how phimosis was discussed and rejected.

The files Ploss and Bryk give the central relevant quotes and references in detail. This is backed up by the original texts and new thoroughly checked accurate translations of Ploss and Bryk

See Chinese Medicine which never uses surgery and never practiced circumcision..

The Origins of Routine Male Circumcision - 2 of 5