Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Two trepanned skulls from the Middles Ages are found in Soria, Spain

Date:
May 9, 2012
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
Two skulls with perforations have been exhumed in the area of Gormaz in Soria, Spain. They have been dated from the 13th and 14th centuries -- a period in which trepanation was not commonly practiced.  One woman lived for a length of time after a hole was made through her skull.

Skull. In the woman, a scraping technique was used while she was still alive. According to the researchers, she survived for a "relatively long" amount of time afterwards given that the wound scarring is advanced.
Credit: Image courtesy of Plataforma SINC

Two skulls with perforations have been exhumed in the area of Gormaz in Soria, Spain by researchers from the universities of Oviedo and Leon. They have been dated from the 13th and 14th centuries -- a period in which trepanation was not commonly practiced.  One woman lived for a length of time after a hole was made through her skull.

Trepanation has been around for a very long time. The earliest examples found go back to the beginning of the Neolithic Period some 10,000 years ago. There are even authors who suggest that such iatrogenic practices (induced by physicians) began at the end of both the Palaeolithic Period and the Mesolithic Period some 12,000 years ago.

Nonetheless, little evidence exists for later periods, such as the Middle Ages. The two skulls in Soria trepanned for medical purposes between the 13th and 14th centuries are therefore a surprising finding. They were discovered in the area surrounding the San Miguel hermitage in the area of Gormaz by researchers from the universities of Oviedo and Leon.

"As of the Bronze Age, cases of trepanation are common throughout Europe, mainly in the Mediterranean Basin. In the Iberian Peninsula there are many cases that have been dated back to the Copper Age some 4,000 years ago. However, our scientific literature lacks much more in the description of trepanation during the Middle Ages," explained Belén López Martínez, researcher and the University of Oviedo and co-author of the study.

One of the most salient cases actually comes from Spain. The King of Castile, Henry I (1204-1217) underwent trepanation whilst still alive possibly in an attempt to stop a haemorrhage caused by an accidental blow to the head. The accident subsequently brought him to his death.

The two skulls found in the cemetery in Soria belong to a male between 50 and 55 years and a woman between 45 and 50 years. The expert points out that "another interesting aspect of this finding is that trepanation in women is considered rare throughout all periods in history. In Spain, only 10% of those trepanned skulls found belonged to women."

Different techniques, different results

The trepanation technique differs in each of the skulls. The skull of the male has been grooved with a sharp object and it is unknown whether trepanation occurred before or after his death. López Martínez confirms that "if the procedure took place whilst still alive, there is no sign of regeneration and the subject did not survive."

In the woman, a scraping technique was used while she was still alive. According to the researchers, she survived for a "relatively long" amount of time afterwards given that the wound scarring is advanced.

Regarding why trepanation was performed, researchers suspect differing reasons. As the researchers conclude, "this is the big question on trepanation. Its practice can be attributed to many reasons: magic/religious reasons such as to free people from daemons that could be torturing them; initiations as a way of giving right of passage to adulthood or to turn someone into a warrior; therapeutic reasons to treat tumours, convulsions, epilepsy, migraines, loss of consciousness and behavioural changes and; the treatment of traumatisms like skull fractures."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Belén López, Luís Caro, Antonio F. Pardiñas. Evidence of trepanations in a medieval population (13th-14th century) of northern Spain (Gormaz, Soria). Anthropological Science, 119(3): 247-257, 2011

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Two trepanned skulls from the Middles Ages are found in Soria, Spain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509092522.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2012, May 9). Two trepanned skulls from the Middles Ages are found in Soria, Spain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509092522.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Two trepanned skulls from the Middles Ages are found in Soria, Spain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509092522.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) — Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) — A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins