I am sure you have heard of Shamans, now they are seen as crazy, full of unnecessary knowledge and superstition. That may be how we see them, but in the time before modern doctors, they were the person to run to if you or a family member had something as small as a headache. A method, that began in the Neolithic period, is a method we still use today, albeit not as frequently as we did 100 years ago. This method is named trepanation, which consists of cutting a hole in the skull (there is evidence of this practice from all over the world). Seeing how we as a species have always been violent, the head was a section that has been targeted in battle throughout the centuries, and this was no different for the prehistoric humans. The removing of shattered skull or to remove blood that had seeped into the skull was one of the first suggested reasons they would go through the pain of trepanation, which was then seen as an emergency surgery (they had no such thing as anesthesia). With the lack of modern cutting implements, they had to use stone tools. Most likely using the same ones they would use for skinning an animal, probably made of flit of obsidian (a good number of modern surgeons actually prefer obsidian surgical tools mostly because no rust and feel they are more exact with the obsidian blade).
It is ironic how in prehistoric times, they had good reason to go through that pain, but as the ages and humans progressed, the practice of trepanation became an almost everyday operation, especially in the Middle Ages. In this time period, most everything they felt rooted from problems with the brain, they would open the skull to fix it. These problems varied from seizures to releasing a ghost from in the skull. Now, having a hole cut into the skull sounds like eventual death from the operation, but in fact we have evidence of those who were able to heal after and some, whose problems were not all gone, had several trepanation operations. There were of course casualties, but if this operation meant imminent death, I am sure they would have stopped centuries ago. This healing of the skull is also evident when we just started in the Neolithic period. In modern times, we still use trepanation, but it is nowhere as frequent as it was years ago (examples below; on the left is an example of one who died in or around surgery, on the right is a healed skull).
In the previous blog I posted (http://anthropologicalconcepts.weebly.com/blog/-primatology), I mentioned chimpanzees eating medical plants to calm stomach aches. Who would have thought that hundreds of years ago, Neanderthals were eating those types of plants as well. What is more, who would have thought hundreds of years ago, our ancestors went through excruciating pain just to feel better. Now we have so many medications at our fingertips. We maybe the most medicated generation, but look on the bright side, we are not the generation with the most trepanations.
Please feel free to comment on what you thought of the blog, or other physical anthropological subjects you would like me to cover.