Trephination

  • Ruben G. Mendoza
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_8916

Perhaps one of the least understood surgical practices performed in ancient America concerns cranial trephination (also spelled “trepanation”), or the surgical modification of the skull. While much of the prevailing literature is largely dated, an older generation of theories tended to ascribe the practice to primitive wonderment and notions of spirit release and possession. This is despite a substantial body of technical evidence available from trephined specimens and a large and specialized body of surgical instruments and procedures documented in archaeological and contact‐period historical contexts. According to medical historian Guido Majno, trephination was used as a cure for a number of ailments including skull fractures and related trauma, epileptic seizures, and insanity. In fact, many of those skulls examined to date bear evidence of blunt trauma or pathology that may provide a more direct indicator of why the practice was carried out in the first place.

While ancient Peru...

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruben G. Mendoza

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