Trepanation in the Ancient Andes

April 13, 2022

Researchers in the Peruvian Andes have uncovered 1,000 year old skulls showing the practice of trepanation. 32 skulls were uncovered and gave evidence of 45 separate procedures, all the skulls of men. It was forbidden to do this on women or children. Trepanation began as a practice at 200-600 CE. The Peruvian surgeons evolved their practice with new drills, cutting and scraping tools. They studied on skulls of the dead. They can see that patients survived after this surgery since bone grew back after the procedure.

Research leader Danielle Kurin said, “We can see where the trepanations are. We can see that they’re shaving the hair. We see the black smudge of an herbal remedy they put over the wound.”  She used radiocarbon dating and insect casings to determine how long the bodies were left out before they were mummified, and multi-isotopic testing to reconstruct what they ate and where they were born.

The research is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Smithsonian has there report here with a photo;

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