Incans Were Masters at Grisly Practice of Drilling Holes in People's Skulls

Live Science | 6/12/2018 | Staff
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If you had a hole drilled through your skull in historical times, the odds of surviving the ordeal were far better in the ancient Incan Empire of South America than they were in North America during the Civil War, a new study finds.

Researchers made the finding by studying more than 800 Incan skulls found in Peru that had undergone trepanation — a practice in which a surgeon cuts, scrapes or drills a hole in a person's head. Between 17 and 25 percent of these Incan patients died before their skulls healed, the researchers found.

Difference - Dr - David - Kushner - Professor

"That's a big difference," study researcher Dr. David Kushner, a clinical professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said in a statement. "The question is: How did the ancient Peruvian surgeons have outcomes that far surpassed those of surgeons during the American Civil War?"

Trepanation is thousands of years old, and historically was done to suppress headaches, seizures and mental illness, as well as to oust perceived demons. Given that the Incan Empire existed a good 300 years before the American Civil War, it's impressive that Incan trepanation patients had twice the survival rate of Civil War patients, Kushner said.

Difference - Sanitation - Civil - War - Battlefields

That difference likely comes down to hygiene, as sanitation was notoriously horrible on Civil War battlefields, the researchers said. For instance, Civil War surgeons regularly used unsterilized medical tools and even their bare fingers to dig inside head wounds or break up blood clots, said study co-researcher John Verano, a world authority on Peruvian trepanation at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Nearly every Civil War soldier wounded by gunfire later suffered from an infection, but the Inca appear to have experienced a much lower infection rate, the researchers said.

Peruvians - Infection

"We do not know how the ancient Peruvians prevented infection, but it seems...
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