Hole in the head

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Wed, 21 Feb 1996 13:29:16 -0500

Stewart, T. Dale
1948 Deformity, Trephining, and Multilation in South American Indian
Skeletal Remains. In Julian H. Steward (ed) Handbook of South American
Indians, Vol 6, 43-47.
Surgical removal of parts of the cranial vault during life has been
practiced during historic times in Bolivia and Peru. (See vol 5, p 638).
The geographical and chronological distributions of the custom, as well
as variations in technique, on the other hand, are known chiefly from
sketal remains. Judging from these remains, the custom rarely occurred
outside the above mentioned countries. A few specimens have been reported
from NW Argentina, and it would not be suyrprising if others were found
in N Chile.
Thus far, a few localities have furnished the majority of the
reported specimens. Except for the Paracas Peninsula, whewre numeropus
specimens have been found, Coastal Peru has fuirnished only scattered
examples. On the other hand, large numbers havbe been found in the
Peruvian highlands, particularly around Huarochiri and Cuzco. ...
Three techniques for removing the trepan are generally recognized
(1) cutting or sawing, (2) scraping, (3) drilling... The instruments
employed were chiefly obsidian and quartz flakes...
The rate of survival from this primiotive surgery was
surprisingly high... 62.5 % ...
The reason for the operation is not always apparent. This absence
of apparent cause in their series led Muniz and McGee to suggest
thaumaturgy as an explanation. Tello and subsequent writers have stressed
the therapeutic nature of the procedure. Fractures are the principal
indivation for the operation. The Paracas skulls, according to Tello, are
an exception in this regard, and this is further reason for
beleiveing that many of them may have been trephined after death.
The defect in the skull is said to have been covered in some
instanced by a disk of shell, metal or other material. These disks, if
discovered in situ, rarely have been described. Tello found a thin gold
plate over a small trephine opening in one of his Paracas mummies.