You are a member of an archaeological team working in Latin America. Currently, you and the rest of your team are examining an artifact found in modern day Peru. The artifact is a human skull.
Based on other research, you know that similar skulls have been found in such places as Gaul, Bohemia, North and South Africa, Asia, and even in such isolated locations as Tahiti and New Zealand.
<ul><li>Your Task: </li></ul><ul><li>To determine the: </li></ul><ul><li>significance of the </li></ul><ul><li>holes in the skulls , </li></ul><ul><li>who made them , </li></ul><ul><li>how they were made </li></ul><ul><li>and why they were made ? </li></ul>
Step 1: Consider what you know about the key elements: prehistoric peoples, skulls, & holes. Step 2: Formulate Tentative Hypotheses based on previous knowledge and available evidence. Step 3: Develop Investigative Questions In this exercise, all questions must be answerable by either “ yes ” or “ no ”. Remember: Each question should be linked to one of your hypotheses.
Step 4: Refine your hypotheses based on the responses to your investigation questions. Step 5: Continue to refine your hypotheses with further rounds of investigative questions. Step 6: Based on your inquiry thus far, formulate your final hypothesis and provide supporting evidence for your conclusion.
It appears that the holes were deliberate and were made with some care and purpose. There is also evidence that the bone around the holes had healed indicating that the persons were alive at the time of the procedure and survived. It might be concluded that the procedure was medical. Some have speculated that the purpose of the procedure was to relieve pressure from swelling in the brain.
Given what we know about the believe systems of many of these societies, one might conclude that the procedure was meant to address supernatural causes of illness. Prehistoric peoples as well as later societies believed that pain and conditions such as epilepsy and mental illness had supernatural causes.
The procedure is known as trepanation and it is one of the few medical procedures for which we have archaeological evidence. There is much speculation about the tools used in the procedure. It has been suggested that an instrument resembling a carpenter’s bit may have been used. The bit may have been made from obsidian or other stone, or even bronze. The procedure was particularly prevalent in what is today Peru.
In 1961, Dr. Grama of Peru attempted the same operation on a patient using Stone Age tools. The patient, who suffered from a brain tumor, survived.