Archaeologists find evidence of brain surgery in 3,000-year-old skull

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 Archaeologists discover evidence of brain surgery in 3,000-year-old skull

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In PLOS ONE magazine Wednesday, a group of historians reported evidence of a special type of brain surgery, known as an angled incisional trepanation, performed on a man who lived in Israel more than 3,000 years ago. This is reported by Cnet.

“We have evidence that trepanation has been a universal and widespread type of surgery for millennia,” – said Rachel Kalisher, a doctoral student at Brown University and leader of the research team. “But in the Middle East, we don't see it that often. About a dozen examples of ancient trepanation have been found in the region.

Trepanation – it is cutting a hole in the skull with a drill to treat head injuries or relieve pain. But in those days, a drilled hole was expected to be a cure, and so it was permanent. Unlike ancient trepanation, modern craniotomy doctors try to replace the drilled piece of skull as soon as possible. These surgeries are usually done to treat aneurysms, remove brain tumors, or relieve pressure in the brain.

One of two skeletons buried along with fine pottery and other valuables under an elite residence in Tel Megiddo, Israel, had a roughly 30 millimeters square hole in the frontal bone of the skull. These men were presumably brothers, but it is believed that one of them died young, in his teens or early 20s. The other probably died somewhere between 20 and 40.

The team set out to find the reasons that led one of these wealthy brothers to experience the horrifying experience of trepanation. The researchers drew attention to several skeletal anomalies, which led them to suspect iron deficiency anemia in both brothers, which could have affected their development since childhood. The older brother is found to have a cranial suture and an extra molar at the corner of his mouth, which Kalischer attributes to a congenital syndrome such as clavicular-cranial dysplasia. In people with this rare disease, the bones are especially fragile and shaped.

Moreover, a third of one skeleton and half of the other show signs of porosity, damage and inflammation of the membrane covering the bones, suggesting that the final death of the brothers was probably caused by an infectious disease such as tuberculosis or leprosy.

“A deep investigation is needed to fully understand what happened to the brothers. But one thing is certain”,– notes Kalisher. “If the craniotomy was meant to save the boy's life, it didn't work.”

The team concluded that the patient died within hours or perhaps even minutes after the operation.

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