Brain Surgeries in the Stone Age

Brain Surgeries in the Stone Age


Signs of successful brain surgeries go as far back as the Stone Age.


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Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of ancient surgery among the remains of people who lived in a settlement near Istanbul, Turkey, between the 11th and 6th centuries B.C. A skull, buried among the many remains undergoing excavation in the location of the ancient Roman city of Bathonea, was found to have been cut into, and examinations showed the patient survived the apparent surgery.

Excavation team member and forensic science expert Ömer Turan told Hurriyet Daily News, "The skull of this person, who is over the age of 30, was cut very regularly by medical workers, just like today's brain surgeons. It is a painful process to open the skull. A person cannot tolerate this pain and should be anesthetized, so this type of operation in such an early era makes us think there was a kind of anesthesia. Biological studies on the bones will enable us to find out which substance was used. The traces of recovery are apparent in the place of operation."

Over 400 small bottles have been unearthed on site. Chemical examination revealed that this terracotta unguentarium had contained methanone, phenanthrene, and phenanthrene carboxylic acid. The study showed the bottles had been filled with the mixed chemicals deliberately, added with the use of specific calculations. These findings, and the number of bottles, led Turan and the excavation team to surmise the location was a production center. Turan told Hurriyet Daily News, "This place may be a drug production or storage center; like a pharmaceutical warehouse. There are studies related to the flora of the region. It is believed that this region was rich in plant diversity. The stock of these drugs may be here."


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