Chinese Mummy Suggests Brain Surgery May Have Been Performed 3,600 Years Ago

china-mummy-brain-surgery

A skull that’s more than three and a half millennia old has revealed signs of an early form of brain surgery.

The perforated skull belongs to a mummified woman found in the Xiaohe tomb in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Experts said that the hole, which measures around 2 inches (50mm) in diameter, was most likely an early form of craniotomy.

A craniotomy involves temporarily removing a ‘flap’ of bone from the skull to give surgeons access to the brain.

The amount of skull removed depends on the type of surgery being performed, and the flap is later replaced using screws.

It may have also been a form of trepanation, which involves the removal of a piece of bone from the skull.

This procedure has been performed since prehistoric times, and cave paintings indicate that ancient people believed the practice would cure epileptic seizures, headaches and mental disorders.

Lead archaeologist Zhu Hong who made the discovery said: ‘[The wound] suggests the female, who died in her 40s, must have lived for at least a month, or even longer, after receiving the surgery.’

He added there were also signs of healing tissues around the wound.

The mummy dates back to 1,615 BC and is one of hundreds discovered in the Xiaohe ‘Little River’ Tomb complex.

Lying 108 miles (175 km) west of the ancient city of Loulan, the site was first explored in 1934 by Swedish archaeologist Folke Bergman, but not fully excavated until 2005.

Dating of the area has shown it goes back to approximately 2,000 BC, although tests have revealed the bodies contain DNA from the east and west.

In particular, males were found to have chromosomes typically found in Northern and Eastern Europe, alongside DNA found in Siberia.

The massive burial site has more than 330 graves and contains the largest number of mummies ever found in the world.

These tombs include adults and children as well as 15 intact mummies, although approximately half of the tombs were said to have been looted by grave robbers.

The majority of the coffins found on the site were made of wood, and were shaped like boats, buried upside down.

This practice is similar to how the Egyptians believed boats would take Pharaohs to the land of the ‘Gods’

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SOURCE: Daily Mail UK, Victoria Woollaston

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