Italian Archaeologists Stumble Upon Coffin Birth and Early Medieval Surgical Trepanation

Coffin Birth in Italy

Italian archaeologists argued that a coffin birth is a very rare medical event.

Although most envision archaeology as it was portrayed by movie character Indiana Jones, there are times when this discipline is closer to investigating an Ancient crime scene that jumping around temples and looting golden idols. Recently, an Italian team comprised of archaeologists, forensic experts, and neurosurgeons witnessed two rare phenomena: a coffin birth and Medieval surgical trepanation.

Few Undocumented Cases of Coffin Birth

A team of researchers from the universities of Ferrara and Bologna recently discovered that the tomb of an unknown woman contained clues to some of the rarest medical phenomena.

The tomb was discovered in 2010, during the excavation of the Imola region, in Italy. According to the study published in the World of Neurosurgery journal, inside the tomb, the archaeologists discovered the remains of a woman and what appeared to be a fetus. The place of interment and the remains were dated to the 7th or 8th century.

Although it’s not uncommon to find a mother buried with her child, one detail caught the attention of the researchers – the woman’s skull had a small hole in it.

After analyzing the remains, the scientists were shocked to discover that they’ve witnessed a rare medical condition and a primitive surgical technique.

According to the study, the presence of the child inside the tomb is a textbook example of coffin birth, whereas fetuses still in the womb are forced out as a result of the gas build-up inside the bodies. The fetus was already dead at the time the woman was buried.

The second fascinated aspect was the small hole in the woman’s skull. Researchers claimed that it was not the result of an injury or blunt weapon but rather a trepanation – long-lived surgical technique, still used today to relived intracranial pressure and reduce blood pressure.

Coffin Birth and Burr Hole Related, Study Points Out

As the study points out, the coffin birth and the woman’s burr hole where related. One theory suggests that the woman might have suffered from eclampsia –  a condition affecting women in their twentieth week of pregnancy, characterized by high blood pressure and that Medieval surgeons might have drilled the hole in an attempt to save the lives of the mother and child.

Surprisingly enough, the lab tests reveal that the woman lived almost a week after the procedure, as proven by the skull tissue that was starting to heal.

Image source: Pixabay


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