A Literal Hole in the Head: History of Trepanation


In 1865, in the ancient Inca city of Cuzco, Ephraim George Squier, explorer, archeologist, ethnologist and U.S. charge d'affaires in Central America, received an unusual gift from his hostess, Señora Zentino, a woman known as the finest collector of art and antiquities in Peru. The gift was a skull from a vast nearby Inca burial ground. What was unusual about the skull was that a hole slightly larger than a half-inch square had been cut out of it. Squier's judgment was that the skull hole was not an injury but was the result of a deliberate surgical operation known as trepanning and furthermore, that the individual had survived the surgery.

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