Archaeologists have unearthed a skull dating back some 5,000 years that shows clear signs of successful brain surgery.
Experts say the smooth edges of two large but precise holes in the ancient skill show signs of healing after the radical Bronze Age surgery – which took place long before the invention of modern anaesthetics or antibiotics.
Recent research suggests procedures of this kind used cannabis, magic mushrooms, and even shamanic practices like ecstatic dancing to dull the pain as holes were bored into the patient’s skull .
While the patient appears to have survived the procedure, their body had been dismembered after death – possibly as part of some religious ritual.
In ancient times, holes were drilled into a person who was behaving in what was considered an abnormal way to let out what people believed were evil spirits
The procedure, called trepanning, was also used as an emergency surgical procedure for head injuries caused by hunting accidents, or in battle. A drill would be used to remove fragments of bone from a fractured skull or to drain blood to relieve pressure on the brain.
Trepanning was also used as a treatment for epilepsy.
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This latest find is believed to be a burial of a member of Middle Don catacomb culture – nomadic sheep and cattle farmers who roamed from southern Russia as far south as Greece and even Egypt.
The catacomb culture, so named for its distinctive burial rituals, flourished between 2800 and 1700 BC.
This particular burial mound opened by archeologist Roman Smolyaninov is near the modern-day village of Volkhonskie Vyselki.
Smolyaninov said: “We believe this was trepanation undertaken for a medical purpose on a living person.
“The edges of the holes look smooth which for us is one of the key signs that the person lived for a period after the trepanation.”
The burial mound also contained a ceramic vessel typical of the late stage of the culture's existence, three miniature bronze beads, and several dice.
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