5000 AF. Trapanazioni craniche nella Russia Europea.
… The most famous trepanations were the Mesolithic and Neolithic skulls found in the Dniepr River region, now in the Ukraine (Goichman, 1966). The oldest Mesolithic operation was made about 10,000 years ago, and was done by drilling in the centre of the left parietal bo ne (burial site Vassilyevka III, Grave 31 ). The lesi on observed on the skull of an old man, had round borders. The extemal diameters of the perforation were 16 x 18 mm. On the inner, endocranial side, the hole was smaller: 8.2 x 9.3 mm. With palpation,
microscopically, and with the X-ray method, the borders of the hole showed clear evidence of regeneration and bone callus development. On the anterior and lower sides of the lesion, the diploe was invisible. The three bone layers joined in a common compact structure.
According to the investigators of this skull, the surgical intervention was performed after a depressed fracture of the bone. lt can be supposed that this operation was provided for treatment of post-traumatic, localised headache syndrome (Goichman, 1966: Figs. 4, 6; pp. 112, 115).
Only a summary of the trepanning regions can be given within the framework of this
report. If we look at a Russian map, the Bronze Age trepanations were mainly localised
in the European region; the centre of early Iron Age skull openings involved the south of
Siberia including the Minussinsk Basin and the Altai-Sayan Highland; and the early
Mediaeval operations were again concentrated in European part of Russia.
The Bronze Age
In the Early Bronze Age, during the fourth and the third millennia BC, trepanations were intra-vital, made with the scraping technique. The majority of perforated skulls were found in the low Don River flow, inhabited by cattle-breeding tribes in that period.
Locations of trepanation holes were on parietal and occipital bones, anatomically in the obelion and lambda areas. The largest diameter for a perforation was about 50 mm.
It is difficult to differentiate between magical or therapeutic purposes underlying such a practice. In a collective grave excavated in a Rostov-upon-Don town, 5 out of 7 individuals were trepanned (Elena Batieva, personal communication). The burial belonged to the Eneolithic Maikop culture or to the Early Bronze Age. In all cases, the trepan holes were observed in the parietal-occipital area, and were made well before death.
The group includes three adult males and two females, one juvenile, and a child about 2 years old. One female, 30-35 years old at death, had a lesion on the obelion area; another female, 25-30 years old at death, had a round opening on the sagittal suture; the sub-adult (female?), 14-16 years old, had an opening in the obelion area; the first male, 35-40 years old, had a round perforation in the lambda area, and the second male, 30-35 years old, also had an oval opening in the lambda area. lt should be stressed that trepanning activity of the operators crossed genders and ages. It would be strange if each of these people needed to be trepanned for medical reasons.
The unusual posture of these skeletons indicates that the bodies were disarticulated
and then bound after death. The pit grave contained a lot of red ochre, often used for
magical purposes. . . .
In the Middle Bronze Age, the first half of the second millennnun BC, the location of trepanned holes was mostly in the occipital area. The majority had indications of vital
reactions. In this period, the skull opening practice was found in the Upper and in the
Middle Volga River flows . Some of the skulls had many trepanation holes, mostly localised on the parietal and occipital bones (Gokhrnan, 1989).
Were the Middle Bronze Age skull perforations ritual or surgical? The archaeological
context of the skeletal finds sometimes gives an answer to this question (Mednikova and
Lebedinskaya, 1999). For example, in the Volga River region not far from the city of
Cheboksary a large collective funeral was excavated, dated from the eighteenth century
BC (Pepkino). In the long grave there were the remains of 27 adult males buried simultaneously.
The skeletons were found in good anatomical order with two exceptions. Two skulls
were separated, and both were trepanned on the parietal bones in the bregma area by the scraping technique (Fig. 1). The first trepanned skull was found in the chest area of the skeleton in an upside-down position. There was a ceramic vessel in its normal anatomical piace. The second trepanned skull was found on the feet of another individual.
Different skeletons from the same grave showed unhealed cranial traumas, cut-marks, and artificial damage to the skulls and long bones (Mednikova and Lebedinskaya, 1999).
Those buried in the mound could certainly be victims of a Bronze Age battle. But it is also possible to consider some traits of specific rituals, especially in connection with those persons who had been trepanned.
Moreover, amulets made from tbe cranial bones, dating from the tbird-fourth centuries
BC, were excavated in this small district. The amulets were discovered in layers of an Iron Age settlement (Anuchin;· 1895; Bader, 1951). The roundels had drilled perforations that were used for hanging them. The burial tradition of the first millennium BC in the European woody part of Russia called for buming. Such a practice has obscured our
knowledge about more trepanations.
Da MEDNIKOVA M., Prehistoric Trepanations in Russia: Ritual or Surgical?, in Trepanation, History, Discovery, Theory, Arnott R., Finger S., Snith C.U.M., Swets&Zeitlinger, Lisse, 2003.