- It is believed the double trepanation procedure was survived by the warrior as it showed signs of healing
- May have been inflicted on the man as part of ‘brain surgery’ to alleviate pain or as part of a ritual
- The warrior was from the Ingul catacomb culture and was likely high on cannabis to numb the pain
The skull of a prehistoric warrior who lived 4,000 years ago has been unearthed with two holes in his skull as a result of an operation from ‘ancient brain surgeons’.
Archaeologists believe the man from a Stone Age axe-making culture may have suffered from bad headaches and went on to live for some years after the intrusive trepanation procedure as the wounds showed signs of healing.
Dr Sergey Slepchenko, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Novosibirsk, said the ‘most obvious’ anaesthetic was cannabis.
The well-preserved skull was found on a disused Stalinist shooting range in the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova in eastern Europe.
The skull of a prehistoric warrior who lived 4,000 years ago has been unearthed with two holes in his skull as a result of rudimentary brain surgery (pictured)
Archaeologists believe the man from a Stone Age axe-making culture lived for some years after the intrusive trepanation procedure as the wounds showed signs of healing (pictured)
It is believed such brain surgery was carried out in ancient times in attempts to ease severe headaches or to cure a haematoma following skull injuries.
It might have been used, too, with the aim of curing epilepsy or rid the afflicted of bad spirits.
Skulls like this with two holes rather than one made by prehistoric medics are rare and archaeologists do not rule out that they were cut for ritualistic reasons rather than for surgery.
But the fact the warrior – from the Ingul catacomb culture – survived the procedure possibly indicates surgery is the more likely explanation.
The skull showed signs of healing after the ‘surgery’ which may have been carried out by scraping with a ‘bronze blade’.
An earlier and similar skull with trapanning – but less well preserved – was found three years ago at the same site.
This ancient human was dismembered after death in what may have been a macabre ritual, say archaeologists led by head of excavations Dr Sergey Razumov, of the Transnistrian State University in the pro-Moscow rebel region.
Burials on the site included clay pots and evidence of making stone axes and maces.
Further research will be undertaken on the intriguing Bronze Age skulls.
Research in Russia indicates ancient doctors conducting brain surgery of this kind used cannabis, magic mushrooms, and even Shamanic practices like ecstatic dancing as anaesthetics to dull the pain.
But ‘the consumption of fungi, together with other Shamanic practices, such as ecstatic dancing or the use of a drum’ is seen as a likely method of ‘altering the conscious state of a patient and so reducing pain to the extent necessary to carry out surgery’.
WHAT IS TREPANATION?
Trepanation is a procedure which was done throughout human history.
It involves removing a section of the skull and was often done on animals and humans.
The first recorded proof of this was done on a cow in the Stone Age 3,000 years ago.
It was a process that was still being conducted in the 18th century.
The belief was that for many ailments that involved severe pain in the head of a patient, removing a circular piece of the cranium would release the pressure.
Before then, dating back to the Neolithic era, people would drill or scrape a hole into the head of people exhibiting abnormal behaviour.
It is thought that this would release the demons held in the skull of the afflicted.
This gruesome-looking tool kit was used in the 18th century by physicians to perform trepanations – the removal of a piece of skull to relieve the pressure in the head