3,000-year-old hu­man skulls show traces of early cran­iotomy

The Borneo Post - - WORLD -

ZHENGZHOU: Two hu­man skulls un­earthed in Yinxu, or the Ru­ins of Yin, one of China’s old­est ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, in cen­tral China’s He­nan Prov­ince, show traces of cran­iotomy, said Chi­nese ar­chae­ol­o­gists.

One of the skulls be­longs to a 10-year-old boy, show­ing a cir­cu­lar per­fo­ra­tion about 1 cm in di­am­e­ter on top of his head, China’s Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

“The skull sur­face is smooth and even, in­di­cat­ing the traces of ar­ti­fi­cial drilling.

And the cra­nium shows that it still grew af­ter the per­fo­ra­tion, which sug­gests the surgery was suc­cess­ful,” said Yue Hong­bin, re­searcher with the In­sti­tute of Ar­chae­ol­ogy un­der the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences (CASS).

The other piece of ev­i­dence of early cran­iotomy was found on the fontanelle of the skull of a male adult.

The per­fo­ra­tion ap­pears in the front of his skull.

The in­side di­am­e­ter of the hole mea­sures 8 mm, while the out­side di­am­e­ter mea­sures 19 mm.

“Such med­i­cal achieve­ments dat­ing back to more than 3,000 years ago are be­yond our imag­i­na­tion,” said Yue.

Based on the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­search of the ru­ins, peo­ple liv­ing dur­ing the Shang Dy­nasty (about 1600 BC-1046 BC) had a sys­tem­atic cog­ni­tion of dis­eases in var­i­ous parts of the hu­man body, and were able to treat dif­fer­ent dis­eases with drugs, surg­eries, acupunc­ture and mas­sages, said Yue.

In­scrip­tions on bones or tor­toises in the pe­riod record names of 50 kinds of dis­eases with de­scrip­tions of patho­log­i­cal sen­sa­tions and dis­ease lo­ca­tions.

They also in­volve ther­a­pies with medicine, surgery, or­tho­pe­dics and neu­rol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to Song Zhen­hao, one of the or­a­cle bone re­search lead­ers at CASS.

China in 1928 be­gan an of­fi­cial ex­ca­va­tion of the Ru­ins of Yin, the last cap­i­tal of the Shang Dy­nasty, which is in the cur­rent day city of Anyang, mark­ing the start of mod­ern Chi­nese ar­chae­ol­ogy.

This year co­in­cides with the 90th an­niver­sary of the ex­ca­va­tion.

Through years of re­search, ar­chae­ol­o­gists have grad­u­ally un­cov­ered an­cient ther­a­pies.

In one of the tombs, a large num­ber of plant leaves were un­earthed.

Some of the leaves held in bronze pots had been well pre­served.

They have been iden­ti­fied as ori­en­tal bit­ter­sweet, a herb used in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine for clear­ing away heat and toxic ma­te­ri­als, and used as a snake venom rem­edy.

In an­other tomb, the tomb mas­ter’s skele­ton shows a badly in­jured left fe­mur.

It was found cov­ered with pep­per and well pre­served, while the rest of the thigh­bone had com­pletely de­cayed.

“The an­cient Chi­nese had clearly al­ready un­der­stood the func­tions of pep­per in re­liev­ing pain, stop­ping bleed­ing, and pro­mot­ing gran­u­la­tion and an­ti­cor­ro­sion,” said Yue, adding that they have also found med­i­cal tools at the ru­ins.

Four bone nee­dles mea­sur­ing be­tween 11.7 and 13.3cm have also been found in­side a bone.

“They were not nee­dles for sewing, since they are sharp at both ends and do not have pin­holes. We be­lieve they were for med­i­cal use,” said Yue.

Some blunt jade knives un­earthed from the ru­ins were likely used for mas­sages, he added. — Ber­nama

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