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The answer could yield new insights into ancient human behavior and the origin of practices that still exist to this very day.

Cranial surgery, or trepanation, has been performed for thousands of years among a diverse range of human cultures, with some of the oldest examples dating back 12,000 years to the Mesolithic period. Anthropologists aren’t entirely sure why they did it, but it was probably done to treat physical symptoms, sometimes as part of a spiritual ritual. That said, the reasons for the practice likely varied according to each society and the period in which it took place.

What we do know, however, is that trepanation was done with great care, and with the intent to inflict as little harm to the patient as possible. To do it, these ancient proto-brain surgeons formed a hole in the skull, either by drilling, cutting, or scraping away the layers of bone. Incredibly, the most primordial examples of trepanation seen in the archaeological record match the ones performed in more recent historic times, including the Medieval era, and with the same degree of accuracy. We’re not sure how these pioneering brain surgeons acquired their skills, but they may have experimented on dead humans, or perhaps on living or dead animals. Paleontological evidence is sorely lacking in this area, but a new studypublished today in Scientific Reports is finally offering some clues.

… continue reading “Why in the world did ancient humans perform brain surgery on this cow?”

Image Fernando Ramirez Rossi via Gizmodo

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