Hole in the head: healed
This skull tells us about medicine in prehistoric times. It was dredged from the Thames above Hammersmith Bridge in the early 20th century. The skull is between three and five thousand years old.
The skull has a hole in the top which was probably caused by a head injury. Because there is about five years' regrowth of bone around the hole, we know this person survived their wound. Early head injuries were probably left open to heal slowly. If the wound was closed without antiseptics, it could have caused an infection in the person's brain and killed them. Early medical awareness knew to avoid this.
Evidence of an operation?
When this skull was first found, experts believed the hole was due to a medical treatment called trepanning. Using a flint tool, someone would make a hole in the person's head to relieve conditions such as migraines or epilepsy. Trepanning was practised from prehistoric times onwards. As there are no signs of surgery on this skull, it is now thought this person's injury was accidental.
Museum number A13600