This Week In History News, Feb. 19 – 25

Published February 24, 2023

Ancient brain surgery patient discovered in Israel, Civil War artillery shell uncovered at Gettysburg, 500-year-old medicine found in South Africa.

Bronze Age Brain Surgery Patient Unearthed Beneath The Floor Of A 3,500-Year-Old House In Israel

Trepanning Find In Israel

Rachel KalisherDuring analysis of a 3,500-year-old skeleton unearthed in the ancient city of Tel Megiddo, Israel, one archaeology student was shocked to find a postage stamp-sized square hole in the skull that was clear evidence of primitive brain surgery.

For millennia, doctors around the world practiced a primitive form of brain surgery known as trepanation, which involved drilling, cutting, or scraping small sections of the skull in order to treat head injuries or even release evil spirits from the body. First practiced in Sudan as early as 7,000 years ago, trepanation was used everywhere from China to Western Europe to Mesoamerica, where the Andes people of Peru and Bolivia had refined the procedure so well that they achieved an 80 percent survival rate with it in the years before Columbus’ arrival.

Now, archaeologists in Israel have unearthed one of the only trepanation patients ever found in the Middle East. During analysis of a 3,500-year-old skeleton uncovered in the ancient city of Tel Megiddo, one archaeology student was shocked to find a postage stamp-sized square hole in his skull that revealed clear evidence of trepanation. Markings on the cranium show that the surgery was performed while the man was alive, that he died either during the procedure or immediately after, and that he was buried with the pieces of his skull that had just been removed.

Read on here.

Archaeologists Just Stumbled Across An Unexploded Civil War Artillery Shell At Gettysburg

Gettysburg Artillery Shell

Gettysburg National Military ParkThe ten-pound shell discovered at Gettysburg.

While sweeping the grounds of Gettysburg National Military Park as part of a rehabilitation project, archaeologist Steven Brann detected something buried beneath the earth with his metal detector. Two feet down, he came across an intact shell from the Civil War.

Park officials then called in the Army’s 55th Ordnance Company, stationed nearby at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, who came to the park to examine the object. They studied it, put it in a hole with C-4 explosives, and detonated it.

Dig deeper in this report.

This 500-Year-Old Medicine Horn Found In South Africa Is Shedding New Light On Old Healing Practices

South African Medicine Horn

Rodger Smith The 500-year-old medicine horn found in South Africa.

In 2020, Rodger Smith and his family were hiking through the South African wilderness when they made an incredible discovery. After setting up camp in La vie D’Antan rock shelter in the Langkloof Mountains, Smith noticed a peculiar horn-shaped object wrapped in leaves and grass. He then snapped some photos and forwarded them to local researchers.

After receiving Smith’s report, researchers at the University of Johannesburg retrieved the object from the cave and got to work identifying it. Now, they’ve revealed that Smith found a 500-year-old medicine horn containing pre-colonial herbal remedies.

See more here.

All That's Interesting
A New York-based publisher established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science to share stories that illuminate our world.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.