Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago

A 3D digital image of the cow skull and its enigmatic hole, which was likely evidence of Neolithic trepanation. The bar on the left represents 4 inches (10 centimeters).
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
  • 419
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    419
    Shares

Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago:

About 5,000 years back, humans used crude stone tool to puncture a hole in a cow’s head, making it the earliest known instances of skull surgery in an animal.

It is unclear whether the cow (Bos taurus) was alive or dead when the operation took place, but if it was alive, the animal did not survive for long, given that its skull shows no signs of healing, Especialist said in a new study.

However, the intent of the surgery remain a mystery. If the operation — known as trepanation, a primitive type of brain surgery — was meant to save the cow, it would be the oldest known Proofs of veterinary surgery on an animal, said the study lead researcher, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, director of research specializing in human evolution at Frances National Center for Scientific Research in Toulouse.

It is also possible that Neolithic human were simply using the cow to practice trepanation, “in order to perfect the techniques before applying it to humans,” Ramirez Rozzi and study co researcher Alain Froment, a biological anthropologists at the Museum of Man, an anthropology museum in Paris, wrote in the study.

Researcher unearthed the ancient cow skull during an excavation lasting from 1975 to 1985 at the Neolithic site of Champ-Durand in Vendée, a region on the Atlantic coast of western France.

An analysis showed that the cow skull dated to sometimes between 3400 B.C. and 3000 B.C. and that the animal was clearly an adult, the researcher found.

When past archaeologist first looked at the nearly complete cow cranium, they thought another cow must have caused the gouge.

But the hole — which is 2.5 by 1.8 inches (6.4 by 4.6 centimeters) — was so peculiar that one of the original researcher asked Ramirez Rozzi and Froment to take a second look at it in 2012.

“At that time, we looked, and very quickly, we saw that it was trepanation in the cow skull; it was not a goring at all.

If another animal had gored the cow, the violent blow would have caused fracture or splintering around the wound, the researcher said.

And “no proof of such a fracture, either internally or externally, can be seen,” the researcher wrote in the study. Nor does the hole look like it was caused by an infectious disease, such as syphilis or tuberculosis, Ramirez Rozzi and Froment noted.

While using a scanning electron microscope, the researcher saw cut marks around the hole in the cows head that looked eerily similar to scrape marks seen on the skulls of human trepanation patients, Ramirez Rozzi said.

Notice how the cut marks on the cow’s skull (a, b, c) look similar to the cut marks on a Neolithic human skull (d, e). These striking similarities indicate that the technique used for trepanation in humans was also used on the cow. The bar represents 0.4 inches (1 cm)

The earliest proof of trepanation in a human skull dates to the Mesolithic period, which lasted from about 8000 B.C. to 2700 B.C., the researchers said.

Archaeologists have several idea about why ancient people would scrape or drill a hole into a skull. Perhaps the techniques was meant to solve a medical condition, such as epilepsy, or maybe it was part of a rituals, the researchers said.

In the cows case, it’s not clear why Neolithic people would have gone the extra mile to save a cow with some kind of medical disorder, Ramirez Rozzi said. It is more likely that these ancient people were using the cows skull for trepanation practice, he said.

Source: mentalfloss


SHARE THIS ARTICLE
  • 419
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    419
    Shares
P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.