Anglo-Saxon: Angelsaksisch, hier voor de inval van de Normandiërs in 1066.

assault: aanval.

brain surgeon: hersenchirurg.

cranial: schedel-.

to drill: boren.

inch: 25,4 millimeter.

oral tradition: mondelinge overlevering.

patch: stukje.

scalp: schedel.

scar tissue: littekenweefsel.

scrape: schrapen.

shard: scherf.

to shatter (hier): totaal veranderen.

spell: toverformule.

state-of-the art: ultramodern.

widely held: algemeen aangenomen.

skull: schedel.

throughout: van het begin tot het einde.

to trepan: boren.

unrelated: geen verband houdend.

If your doctor threatened to “get medieval”, you’d run screaming. But a new archeological discovery from Anglo-Saxon England shows that medieval medicine was more advanced than historians realize. In A.D. 960, a brain surgeon operated on the peasant victim of a violent assault. By scraping a hole into the patient’s skull, the physician relieved the pressure caused by extensive cranial fractures.

The 40-year-old peasant’s treatment involved lifting a patch of scalp measuring 4 inches by 3.5 inches, and then scraping down through the skull to just above the brain’s membrane. The surgeon delicately removed shards of skull before sewing the scalp together again. The surgery proved so successful that many of the fractures healed, and scar tissue filled in the missing skull. The patient lived for many years after the attack, finally dying of unrelated causes.

“Trepanning”, the process of relieving pressure on the brain by cutting away skull, was practiced in Greco-Roman times, but with the fall of Rome and the loss of Alexandria’s library, knowledge of the operation was thought to have been lost until well into the 13th century, when written accounts begin to re-emerge in Italy. This peasant’s skull, found in Yorkshire, in northern England, proves that brain surgery survived, probably via oral tradition, throughout the medieval period. The method used in the peasant’s case is even safer than those used by the Romans, who drilled rather than scraped. The skull’s discovery questions the widely held view that only the rich were able to afford state-of-the-art medical treatment in the Middle Ages. It also shatters the stereotype of Anglo-Saxon healing as a brew of spells and superstitions. It is brain surgery.

Reageren op dit artikel kan u door een e-mail te sturen naar Uw reactie wordt dan mogelijk meegenomen in het volgende nummer.

Partner Content