Trephination was not that uncommon

Archaeologists working at Tel Megiddo excavated skeletons of two brothers from the Canaanite (Late Bronze) period dating to about 3,500 years ago,  who had a “complex medical procedure” known as trephination (or trephanation). An article in Haaretz includes several nice photos in the Premium Magazine here.

A few years ago Leon Mauldin and I traveled to some of the cities along the Turkish Black Sea Coast that may have been associated with the delivery of Peter’s epistles. See the  index of my articles here. In Samsun we visited the small archaeological museum and noted some skulls from Ikiztepe that had undergone the medical practice of trephination.

Ancient brain surgery that cut a hole in the skull to relieve pressure is referred to as trepination. A few of the skulls found at Ikiztepe are displayed in the museum. They are said to belong to Bronze Age III. I think that would be in the neighborhood of 1600 B.C. Here are two of the photos I made that show the hole drilled in the skull.

Example of Tripanation, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Example of Trepination, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The surgery in the case below required a much larger hole.

Example of Trephenation, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Example of Trephenation, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is no indication whether the surgery was successful, or what happened to the surgeon if it failed.

Joe Zias, in an article in Mikhmanim (Spring 1999), says there have been 29 skulls showing trepanation (trephination) discovered in Israel. He says the survival rate based on “inflammatory or bone remodeling” indicate a 77 percent survival rate in these cases. The earlier link I had to this article is broken. I am currently unable to locate a link to this article which also deals with other medical issues in ancient Israel. One of the better known examples comes from Jericho.

Before any surgery involving the skull you should ask your surgeon about his or her grade in trepanation.

One response to “Trephination was not that uncommon

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