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Bronze Age grave shows evidence of 3,000-year-old brain surgery

When it comes to ancient medical techniques, it is important to keep an open mind. A recent study published in the journal PLos One revealed that people were undergoing a particular type of brain surgery as early as 3,000 years ago. This type of surgery, known as angular notched trephination, was found to have been practiced in China 3,500 years ago.

Rachel Kalisher, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University’s Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, and her team had analyzed the remains of two upper-class brothers who lived in the city of Megiddo, now part of northern Israel, around the 15th century BC. The remains showed evidence of the ancient operation, which involved slicing the scalp and using a sharp, beveled-edge instrument to carve four intersecting lines on the frontal bone of the skull. Accompanying photos of the skull revealed a 1.2-inch square hole cored into it.

Trephination was the norm for thousands of years and this particular discovery was the earliest example of its kind in the region. The researchers concluded that the brothers were royals in part due to the fact that most Megiddo citizens at the time wouldn’t have had access to such a specialized treatment. The remains were also found near a late Bronze Age palace, further confirming their suspicions.

Kalisher suspected that the condition of the brother who underwent the trephination had to be pretty serious to seek out a Bronze Age brain surgeon. The autopsy did reveal that the siblings suffered from several skeletal aberrations. The older brother had an additional cranial suture and an extra molar in one corner of his mouth, suggesting he may have had a congenital syndrome such as Cleidocranial dysplasia.

This ancient medical procedure is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the capabilities of ancient medicine. It reminds us that, even thousands of years ago, people were capable of performing complex medical operations, and that we should never underestimate the power of medical knowledge.

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