An interesting case of prehistoric trepanation from Poland: re-evaluation of the skull from the Franki Suchodolskie site



The skull described here was excavated in Central Poland (archaeological site Franki Suchodolskie) in 1951, and was known as one of the oldest cases of healed trepanation. This skull, with later excavations from the Ukraine (cemeteries of Vasilyevka II and Vasilyevka III), was the basis for dating the beginning of the practice of trepanation in the Mesolithic period. The skull was never comprehensively described and dated, although it was scientifically extremely important. The skull has been reassessed by the authors of this paper has brought thorough verification of the knowledge concerning this excavation. According to radiocarbon analysis it is much younger than previously thought and has now been dated to the Late Neolithic or the Bronze Age. Earlier opinions about the healing and survival after the operation have not been confirmed: the hole in the squama of the frontal bone made by scraping and then by grooving has no evidence of healing. Radiological studies as well as computer tomography indicate lack of any healing processes in the bone tissue around the trepanation opening. The results of the analysis significantly modify ideas regarding the earliest skull operations in Central Europe, and change the time of the first trepanation to the Late Neolithic, as for most of the continent. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.