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IRANIAN SCIENCE

Thematic Essay

Skull Operation, Ancient Style


 

By: Dr Maziar Ashrafian Bonab

 

 

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  Dr Maziar Ashrafian Bonab, examining an skeleton unearthed in Shahr-e Sukhteh (Click to enlarge)

In 2000, a rather full skull with forehead and parietal bones was found during the archeological excavations in the historical cemetery of Chal-e Shahin in Kohgilooye and Boyer Ahmad Province. 

 

In primary probe of the finding, two discoid holes with some 0.7cm diameter, on parietal bones were found on the margins of which no trace or recovered bony tissues could be seen. Such sings are usually created shortly before death showing a kind of operation on the skull, which is called trepanation. This sort of operation used to be carried out in the ancient times in order to save the patients from physical and mental disorders.

 

In many primitive societies, magicians did take such a measure to let the poisonous vapor as well as satanic souls, known as the cause of illness, out the head of the patients with nervous and mental disorders or paranoia. They took a part of skull out or made a hole in it. Reports show that trepanation had been performed in different parts of the world especially in Central and Latin America. 

 

Some unique samples of such skulls are now being kept at a number of museums and centers such as London University Archeological Institute and Medical Center of Kansas University.

 

In addition, some instances have been reported from other parts of the world including Europe, but rare in Asia and Middle East. However, the 4850- year-old trepanation sample discovered in Shahr-e Sukhteh (burnt city), Sistan va Baloochestan Province is one of the very ancient trepanation in the world and the second one in Iran belonging to a 13-year-old girl with chronic hydrocephalus. 

 

In anthropometric and pathology examinations, it was found out that this sample dates back to the first millennium BCE. This finding will be presented at the National Museum of Medical Sciences History.

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