Research highlight

Archaeology: Evidence of cranial surgery in a Stone Age cow

Scientific Reports

April 20, 2018

The analysis of an almost complete skull of a cow from a Neolithic site (3,400-3,000 BC) suggests it may have undergone cranial surgery, according to a study in Scientific Reports. The authors suggest that the findings may provide the earliest evidence of surgical experimentation on an animal.

Evidence of cranial surgery in human history exists as early as the Mesolithic period (approximately 10,000-2,700 BC) and the oldest human crania with evidence of trepanation - forming a hole in the skull by drilling, cutting or scraping away layers of bone - suggests use of techniques similar to those used historically .

Fernando Ramirez Rozzi and Alain Froment analysed a cow cranium found at the Neolithic site of Champ-Durand, France presenting a hole in the right frontal lobe bone. The authors found no fractures or splintering consistent with a blow which would suggest that the hole resulted from goring by another cow. However, the almost square shape of the hole, the lack of any marks indicating pressure by an exterior force, and the presence of cut-marks around the hole, suggest that the injury may have been the result of a surgical process. The authors found no evidence of healing which indicates that the procedure was either performed on a dead animal or that the animal did not survive it.

doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-23914-1

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