Ancient Brain Surgery

Brain surgery is thought to have been performed as early as 6500 B.C. Known as trephination, the surgery involved drilling a hole in the skull and often removing a piece of the skull. Trephination was performed all over the world, including France, China, the Incan, Mayan, and Aztec Empires, Rome, and Greece.

Evidence suggests trephination may have been performed for a variety of reasons: religious and spiritual rituals, emergency surgery to relieve pressure after a battle-induced head wound, and the release of “demons” from a mentally ill individual. Just as reasons varied, so did recovery rates. Many people survived these painful surgeries, with survival rates in Central and South America being among the highest.

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By Unknown author [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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