Ancient Skulls Ancient Skills

  1. Published on November 9, 2011

As far back as 7300-6220 BC in Ukraine (5) man has performed craniotomies with a variety of tools.

An Ancient Trepanned Skull

Neolithic man used flints or obsidians (6) later Hippocrates wrote on when to drill the skull with a trepan (7).

Incas used a ceremonial knife called a tumi. In Europe it was the trepan which was developed and refined throughout the Middle Ages.

1 in 17 skulls out of 10000 bodies from one Inca site and a staggering 1 in 3 of 120 skulls at a French Neolithic site have shown evidence of trepanning. Smooth edges from bone remodelling around the trepanning and evidence of new bone growth have shown that many patients survived (3).

Earlier craniotomies done by the Incas had close to 80% survival by comparison with 25% in Europe in the mid 19th Century where prior to the introduction of asepsis it was infection, not surgery which was the main killer.

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