Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/555

This page has been validated.

ellipse, in length about 158 inch; the sides are gradually reduced in thickness, and are always cut obliquely, at the expense of the outer surface of the bone."

These holes cut in the head occupy different positions; some are at the side, some on the top of the head, but never on the brow or any portion not covered with hair. It is quite impossible to suppose that they have been due to a blow of an axe or sword. That would only be possible where portions of the skull were arched or projecting. Moreover, a blow would have left bruises on the bone, and it must be remembered that steel weapons were then unknown; no flint or bronze axe or sword could make so clean a cut. Besides, an examination of the edges of the wounds reveals the manner in which the trepanning was effected. There remain the scratches, formed by a slip of the tool employed, and the marks of the flint scraper which effected the operation. In the majority of cases the skull was mutilated during life, and it was carried out with such skill as not to injure vitality. Some of the operations took place in childhood, and those who had been trepanned grew to be men and women.

The tool employed seems to have been invariably a flint scraper, with a sharp edge, which was worked round and round the portion of the skull that was to be removed till the bone was cut through, when the disk was taken out whole. It was necessarily a laborious and lengthy process; it could not possibly have taken less than an hour. In the case of children, when the skull is tender, it would, of course, take very much less time.

The first of the trepanned skulls was discovered as early as 1685 in the tomb of Cocherel. Montfaucon mentions it. He says, "One of the heads there found had the skull pierced in two places, and apparently both wounds had healed." A second specimen was found in 1816 in a cave at Nogent-les-Vierges which contained two hundred skeletons. "One of the skulls had in it a great hole three inches long and two inches wide, which seems to have been caused by a wound which had resulted in the loss of a large piece of bone. Nature had repaired the edges of the fracture, and M. Cuvier thinks that the man in question may have lived a dozen years after having received it." Thus this discovery was described at the time and misunderstood. It was not till Dr. Prunières drew attention to the frequency of skulls being thus marked and mutilated that the importance of the matter was realized.

In the Ribeiro Museum at Lisbon is a skull of the neolithic age that shows on it the work of the operator left unfinished; the oval has been nearly, not quite, cut through. In the Musée Broca of the Socicté d'Anthropologie is a skull from Oise, of a man who apparently died under operation. Other skulls are indeed found that have been submitted to the saw. One was dug