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Archaeology & History

Scalpels point to Bronze Age brain surgery

By T.K. Randall
September 2, 2010 · Comment icon 9 comments

Image Credit: Urville Djasim
Obsidian scalpels and cut skulls have been discovered that seem to be evidence of prehistoric brain surgery.
The discovery was made in Turkey where Önder Bilgi found several scalpels and evidence that they'd been used on the skulls of a number of individuals, probably to help treat head injuries or to relieve the pressure of a brain haemorrhage.
We have found traces of cuts on skulls in a nearby graveyard. Out of around 700 skulls, 14 have these marks. They could only have been cut with a very sharp tool. At this time, 4000 years ago or more, it could only have been an obsidian blade.

Source: New Scientist | Comments (9)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by The Spartan 14 years ago
Where are you digging? At an early Bronze Age settlement called Ikiztepe, in the Black Sea province of Samsun in Turkey. The village was home to about 300 people at its peak, around 3200 to 2100 BC. They lived in rectangular, single-storey houses made of logs, which each had a courtyard and oven in the front. You have found what appear to be scalpels. That's right. We have just found two cutting blades made of obsidian, a volcanic glass that forms a sharp edge when it fractures. The obsidian must have been imported from another region as there is no natural source of it in the area. Read more.... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by SlimJim22 14 years ago
It's interesting but considering the complexities of neuurology I struggle to understand how they could diagnose a condition and then operate to correct it. Maybe there was a head wound and the scalpel was used to remove an infected area. In fact obsidian blades are sharper even than surgical steel blades, so some modern surgeons advocate using obsidian scalpels today. A 1993 study on rats showed that cuts made with obsidian blades initially formed narrower scars, and healed quicker, than cuts made with surgical steel scalpels. Unfortunately such blades are not generally approved for use on hu... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by :PsYKoTiC:BeHAvIoR: 14 years ago
Well, if it wasn't for medical purposes, it's probably a ritual practice. Peru had a tribe where they deformed the skulls intentionally which almost looks like a conehead. Might be something in that sense? "Do you smell burnt toast if I touch your brain here?"
Comment icon #4 Posted by JCon 14 years ago
I wonder what they used for pain relief...
Comment icon #5 Posted by diablo_04_12 14 years ago
I wonder what they used for pain relief... vine, a lot lot of vine
Comment icon #6 Posted by The Silver Thong 14 years ago
Did the Egyptians practice basic brain surgery even before this time.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Paracelse 14 years ago
Did the Egyptians practice basic brain surgery even before this time.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Torgo 14 years ago
I'd hardly call it brain surgery. I'd more call it "drilling a hole in the head". Believe it or not, if you dont puncture the membranes inside the skull you can easily survive it.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Enoonmai 14 years ago
It's called trepanning. It was used to alleviate intra cranial pressure, along with letting evil spirits out of the head. It's an old form of neurosurgery, I believe it dates back to the Neanderthal.

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