Healers in Peru practiced drilling skull surgery more than 1,000 years back
Washington – Scientists have claimed to have found proof that Peruvian healers practiced trepanation – a surgical process that involves removing a section of the cranial vault using a hand drill or a scraping tool – more than 1,000 years ago to treat a variety of ailments, from head injuries to heartsickness.
Excavating burial caves in the south-central Andean province of Andahuaylas in Peru, University of California Santa Barbara bioarchaeologist Danielle Kurin and her research team unearthed the remains of 32 individuals that date back to the Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1000-1250). Among them, 45 separate trepanation procedures were in evidence.
Kurin, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at UCSB and a specialist in forensic anthropology, said trepanations first appeared in the south-central Andean highlands during the Early Intermediate Period (ca. AD 200-600), although the technique was not universally practiced. Still, it was considered a viable medical procedure until the Spanish put the kibosh on the practice in the early 16th century.
Kurin’s research shows various cutting practices and techniques being employed by practitioners around the same time. Some used scraping, others used cutting and still others made use of a hand drill.
She said that it looks like they were trying different techniques, the same way we might try new medical procedures today, asserting that they’re experimenting with different ways of cutting into the skull.
Sometimes they were successful and the patient recovered, and sometimes things didn’t go so well.
The findings have been published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.