Two skulls from the 13th and 14th centuries have been discovered in a Soria cemetery, in north-central Spain. The curious thing about this finding is that each skull has a hole resulting from trepanation, the oldest known surgical procedure. This technique involves the removal of a piece of skull by scraping or cutting with a sharp tool and has been practiced at least since the Neolithic, that is 10,000 years ago.
- Trepanned woman's skull
This was common in prehistory and ancient Europe, but there is no proof of it in the Middle Ages, probably due to a philosophical rejection of surgery to the detriment of the "pure medicineLike leeches, who sucked bad humor out of people through their blood. In some places in Europe like Hungary, this practice almost completely disappeared from historical records after the emergence of Christianity.
In this way, the researchers from the Universities of Oviedo and León were very surprised when they found these two trepanned medieval skulls in the cemetery of the Hermitage of San Miguel. But they were even more surprised when they discovered that one of the skulls belonged to a woman, since trepanation was normally done with men.
The two skulls found in the Soria cemetery belong to a male between 50 and 55 years old and a female between 45 and 50 years old. The expert points out that “Another interesting aspect of this finding is that trepanation in women is considered rare in all periods of history. In Spain, only 10% of the trepanned skulls found belonged to a woman”.
- Scheme of the trepanned skulls found in Soria
The trepanation technique is different in each of the skulls. The skull of the male was pierced with a sharp object and it is not known whether the trepanation occurred before or after his death. López Martínez affirms that “if the procedure was carried out while alive, there is no sign of regeneration, indicating that it did not survive”. However, a scraping technique was used in the woman while she was still alive and according to the researchers, she survived for a long period of time as wound healing is well advanced.
Trepanation it was performed to heal skull fractures by removing the fragmented section. Today it is still used to heal areas of bone and relieve subdural hematoma.
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