Bronze Age brain surgery
Curator's Choice: Removing a brain tumour with a Bronze Age flint at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum...
"This is the trepanned disk from the cranium of a young man, found in the excavation of a Bronze Age barrow at Snail Down in Collingbourne Kingston in 1955.
"The object may look very unprepossessing but it is the story behind it that we find quite amazing.
"Sometime between 2000 and 1600 BC, this young man underwent a major surgical operation, perhaps for a brain tumour, that involved the cutting away of a disk of bone measuring 32 mm in diameter from his cranium.
"The cut was probably made with a blade made of flint which is razor sharp. What was used for an anaesthetic or to sterilise to close the wound we don't know at all, but the process must have been very unhygienic when compared with today’s hospital procedures.
"Did he survive the operation? Again we don't know but we do know that in other cases the Bronze Age person did survive the operation and in one instance went on to repeat the operation two more times."
Roger Watson, Documentation Officer
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum and Library
last updated: 03/12/2008 at 16:42