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Bronze Age surgeons

1 September 2010

New Scientist 2775 August 31st … the discovery of what looks like a scalpel at an Early Bronze Age settlement at Ikiztepe in Anatolia (dating between 3200-2100BC). The site consisted of single storey houses made of logs of wood with a courtyard and oven in front. The scalpels are thought to have been used for surgery rather than ritual as some skeletons found in a graveyard exhibit evidence of skulls being cut open as if with a surgical instrument. They were made of obsidian, volcanic glass, found next to a circular clay platform that may have been used for religious purposes of some kind – or simply for more mundane reasons. They are extremely sharp and still capable of cutting with precision. It is thought holes were cut into the skull in order to relieve pain from brain haemorrhage, brain cancer, or head injuries (from conflict with neighbouring communities).

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