Neurosurgeons are working with anthropologists and archeologists to recreate the surgical techniques of our ancestors.
This follows the discovery of two ancient skulls showing clear evidence of recovery after trepanation some 2,300 to 2,500 years ago in the Altai Mountains.
One man, aged 40 to 45, had evidently suffered a trauma. The academics surmise he was hit, suffering damage to his left temporal and parietal bones. As a result, he developed a haematoma, which would have led to him suffering headaches, nausea, vomiting, disturbances to his consciousness, and movement problems in his right leg and hand.
The ancient doctor decided on a trepanation to remove the haematoma. Evidence of later bone growth seen in the skull suggests that the man not only survived the surgery but lived for years afterwards.
The second male skull had no visible trace of trauma but instead it is suspected he had a congenital deformation of the skull, which the surgeon wanted to ameliorate.
In both these cases, a relatively small hole was made in the skull in a place where safety was maximised, avoiding damage to the joints and the dura mater.
In the first case, the Scythian surgeon made a hole more than one centimetre behind the cranial suture, at an appropriate distance from the edge of the sagittal sinus.
Read more at The Siberian Times
The article has a 3rd picture of a skull with a trephined hole that the scientists attribute to a woman who didn’t survive the surgery. To me it actually looks like the hole was made post-mortem because of the difference between the color of the skull and the edges of the hole.
I think this skull was probably used to practice trepanation techniques because the location of the hole would have likely caused the patient to die. Practice would have been vital to get this surgery correct. In December of last year a UCSB bioarchaeologist published work that showed ancient Peruvian healers practiced trepanation on skulls on recently dead bodies.