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Greek archaeologists discover ancient skull hat underwent brain surgery March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Skull of patient from 3rd century found during dig in northern Greece

14-03-08_greek_brain.jpg  The patient, a young woman, is believed to have died during or shortly after the operation.

Archaeologists in northern Greece said yesterday that they had unearthed the skull of a young woman believed to have undergone head surgery nearly 1,800 years ago. The team of Greek scientists, who discovered the skeleton at an ancient cemetery in Veria, a town some 46 miles (75 kilometers) west of Thessaloníki, said the skull bore perforations that indicate emergency surgery had been performed.

Their examination of the skull concluded that it had belonged to a woman who had suffered a severe blow to the head and had died during or after the operation. Ancient writings contain frequent references to such operations but perforated skulls are rarely found in Greece, experts said.

“We think that there was a complex surgical intervention that only an experienced doctor could have performed,” said Ioannis Graikos, the head of the archaeological dig. “Medical treatment on the human body in the Roman Veria is part of a long tradition that began with Hippocrates up to Roman doctor Celsus and Galen,” he said, cited in the Ta Nea newspaper.

Hippocrates is believed to have lived in the fifth century BC, Celsus between 25 BC to 50 AD, and Galen from 131 to 201. The procedure believed to have been carried out was a trepanation, an ancient form of surgery to address head injuries or illnesses.

In 2003, Greek archaeologists discovered a man’s skull in a tomb on the Aegean island of Chios from the second century BC that had also undergone a trepanation. The patient was believed to have lived a number of years after the operation. Another trepanation was discovered in 2006 in Thrace on a young woman from the eighth century BC believed injured by a weapon.

Earlier on Monday, Greek archaeologists reported finding more than 1,000 graves, some filled with jewelery, coins and art while carrying out excavations in the metro line of Thessaloniki. Majority of the graves, which were 886 in number, were found just east of the center of Greece’s second largest city, at the site of a cemetery during Roman and Byzantine times.

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