Trepanation is the practice of making a hole in the skull. It is the oldest surgical procedure practiced by mankind (ITAG introduction). Archaeologists have found trepanned skulls dating back to 3000 B.C. Hippocrates, who is considered to be the father of medicine, wrote “On Injuries of the Head” endorsed trepanation for the treatment of head wounds in 400 B.C. (Bowen).
Edward M. Margetts stated, “The word ‘trepanation’ comes from the Greek trypanon, meaning ‘a borer,’ and dates back to classic times. The more recent term ‘trephination’ affords a variant, and is derived from the French.” Basically to trepan is to bore a hole in the skull. This hole is usually made by scraping, rasping, drilling, cutting, or sawing into the skull).
Historically, many cultures practiced trepanation. In 1829, in Polynesia, a missionary by the name of William Ellis reported that trepanation was used to repair bony deficiencies in the skull by replacing the bone with a piece of coconut shell. This is not true trepanation because they did not make the hole or depression in the skull. In Tahiti, trepanation was performed using a shark’s tooth. The tahunas, or priests performed this procedure.
In North America, trepanation was common before the white man came. It has been recorded in Alaska, British Columbia, the United States, and Mexico. One missionary reported that a British Columbian Indian came up to him, carrying a brace and a bit, begging him to bore a hole in his skull to let out the evil spirits that were causing him headaches. There are also more than a dozen trepanned skulls from British Columbian sites. In England, up until about 1900, trepanation was a common surgical practice. It was performed to treat fractures of the skull, head injuries, various headaches, epilepsy and mental problems.
Throughout Africa trepanation was commonplace procedure. In Libya, children at the age of four years were trepanned in order to...