18th century French illustration of trepanation
Trepanation, also known as trephinning or trepanning, is a form of surgery where a hole is cut into the skull, leaving the membrane around the brain intact. Modern trepanation movements hinge on the belief that the procedure increases blood circulation to the brain. Believers suggest that capillaries in the brain operate on a higher metabolism which results in a higher state of consciousness.
Trepanation has been carried out for non-medical reasons, including religious and mystical practices. Some trepanation advocates believe the procedure to have spiritual benefits, but it is generally not practiced by doctors without a medical indication. Illegal in the United States and Europe due to the risk of blood clots, brain injuries and infections, trepanation procedures can lead to meningitis or death.
Evidence of trepanation has been found in pre-historic human remains from Neolithic times onwards, per cave paintings indicating that people believed the practice would cure epileptic seizures and mental disorders. Furthermore, Hippocrates gave specific directions on the procedure from its evolution through the Greek age.
The operation is illustrated above in a painting by the artist Hieronymus Bosch entitled The Cure for Folly: Trepanning, alternatively entitled The Stone Operation.
Trephinning in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica
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The International Trepanation Advocacy Group
Information on trepanation, the art of drilling holes into people's skulls.
Salon - The Hole Story
Article by Jon Bowen discussing this procedure citing the pros and cons.
A newsbrief from Archaeology Magazine describing a 7,000-year-old burial in France that has yielded the earliest unequivocal evidence for trepanation.
Astrology Tomorrow Today - Trepanation
A personal interpretation of this procedure by Mei Nah Khoo. From Metaphysical Insights archives.
The Hole to Luck
An interview with self-trepanner Dr. Bart Huges as questioned by Joe Mellen. The Transatlantic Review No. 23, Winter 1966-1967.
The People With Holes In Their Heads
Article on trepanation from Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions by John Michell.
An indepth source of information on medical and historical aspects of this ancient surgical procedure. Includes references and citations as well and advanced reading suggestions.
The experience of a person who had a hole drilled through his skull. Includes photos of the procedure.
Skeptic's Dictionary - Trepanation
Overview focusing on the work of Bart Huges.
Therapeutic Benefits of Trepanation
Scientific article by Daniel Witt of Temple University.
Medical and Alternative Trepanation
Backgroung information on trepanation and the risks associated with it.
Sabbatini, R.M.E.: Making Holes in the Skull: Ancient Psychosurgery ?
Part of a larger series of articles about brain surgery. Discusses the evidence and lore surrounding ancient people drilling holes in a person's skull.