Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities

© 1999 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 1999 Prehistoric Medicine

The elementary nature of prehistorical medical practice has already been mentioned. There is direct evidence that Stone Age man used a natural fungus as a treatment for intestinal parasites.3244 Besides basic wound-tending, the practice of circumcision is an age-old form of simple surgery with a rational, if sometimes controversial, hygienic basis.

An even more dramatic surgical operation, for which there is considerable prehistoric fossil evidence, is trephining the skull to remove a round piece of bone from it. This can be done using flint instruments, either by gradually scratching through the skin and bones of the skull, getting gradually deeper and deeper, or by drilling a series of small holes in a circle in the skull, then cutting the small bridges between to remove a disk of bone. Skulls have been found with multiple holes. The additional fact that some hole edges show callus formation (evidence of healing) indicates survival of the patient. Trephined skulls have been found in Western Europe, including England, North Africa, Asia, the East Indies, New Zealand, and the Americas from Alaska in the north down through the continent to Peru in the south. The practice was probably regarded as therapeutic, either to remove a depressed fracture, to try to cure mental illness, or to relieve severe headache or epilepsy, presumably by letting out the demon possessing the patient.


Last updated on 5 February 2003