Trepanned skull: 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 to the 13th and 14th centuries – a period in which trepanation was not commonly practised.
Trepanation, an ancient practice
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,” explains SINC Belén López Martínez, researcher and the University of Oviedo and co-author of the study.