Trepanation nation

Trepanation nation

Sometimes, you actually do need an extra hole in your head.

For one young man in the land of Israel, that time was approximately 1500 BCE, according to a paper published last month in the journal PLoS ONE by a team of archaeologists led by Brown doctoral student Rachel Kalisher.

The paper reported on two skeletons unearthed in Megiddo in 2016. An earlier DNA study had determined the skeletons came from brothers. This study looked at the medical history that their old bones revealed.

The most notable skeletal event was the trepanation undergone by the brother the researchers designated as Individual 1.

Trepanation — also called trepanning — is the act of drilling a hole in a person’s head. People have been trepanning for nearly 10,000 years. When it is successful, the procedure can treat brain swelling caused by an injury.

The scientists believe, based on the cuts, that the squarish hole, a bit more than an inch wide, was made when the subject was alive. They also believe he died either during the procedure or within the following week.

Other evidence indicates that both brothers suffered from genetic abnormalities, and possibly a disease such as tuberculosis or leprosy.

The brothers’ ability to live as long as they did despite their illnesses, and to have access to cutting-edge surgical procedures, suggests they were among Megiddo’s nobility, if not royalty. So did the place where they were buried, near a slightly older burial chamber featuring gold, silver, and bronze jewelry as well as well as ceramic vessels with food offerings.

Don’t look for a Jewish angle, though. These brothers lived and died in Megiddo more than half a millennium before the city was rebuilt under the auspices of the Omride dynasty of the biblical Kingdom of Israel.

Larry Yudelson 

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