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Bronze Age skull from Jericho, Israel/Palestine, 2200-2000 BCE

Although this skull shows four separate holes made by the ancient surgical process of trephination, they had clearly begun to heal. This suggests that although highly dangerous, the procedure was by no means fatal. Also known as trepanation, or trepanning, the process of making a hole through the skull to the surface of the brain might be carried out to treat a range of medical conditions or for more mystical reasons. The skull was excavated from a tomb in Jericho, Israel, in January 1958 and presented to the Wellcome collection by Dame Kathleen Kenyon (1906-1978), the director of the archaeological dig.

Object number:

A634844

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Glossary:

Glossary: human remains

term created as part of the NMSI human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human hair'

Glossary: skull

The skeleton of the head of a vertebrate animal, including the brain case, or cranium, and the bones and cartilages of the face and mouth. The skull can be subdivided into two parts: the cranium and the mandible. The human skull is made up from 22 bones.

Glossary: trephination

The removal of a circular piece of the top of the head. This is done using a sharp implement or circular saw, and was common in Neolithic times. It is thought that the aim was to release evil demons or spirits from the body in the hope this would cure the person of their illness.