The unearthing of a skull in an archaeological site known as Burnt City in southeastern Iran has changed the country’s medical history.
The skull of a 13-year-old girl was dug out during archaeological excavations in Sistan and Baluchestan province in 1977. It was found among the remains of 13 people in a mass grave dating back to 4,800 years ago.
According to a Farsi report by Mehr, the right part of the skull, kept at the Tehran Museum of Medical History, bears the mark of a deep triangular incision. Archaeologists’ observations as well as the research conducted by anthropologists show a surgery had been carried out on the skull to treat hydrocephalus.
After the skull was discovered and studied and some questions were answered, Seyyed Mansour Seyyed Sajjadi wrote a book titled “A Compilation of Articles on Burnt City”. The book is a compilation of papers by Hossein Sarhadi, Rouhollah Shirazi and Hossein Moradi.
“Initial studies on the skull revealed it belonged to a female person, estimated to have been 18 years old with a crack on the right side of the bones of the mandible. The skull was studied again whereupon the definite age of the owner was determined to be 13, plus or minus 6 to 9 months,” reads part of the book which concerns the results of the study.
In terms of size, the skull is rather big, mostly because its central part had grown beyond the normal size on both sides. Also it was observed that the left side of the skull at the back was bigger than the right side.
However, the right part of the skull in the front was protruding compared to the left side. So, the face seems normal, but she had an extraordinarily large skull. The height, though, is normal.
The skull, on which an operation had been performed, is one of the key archaeological discoveries in the field of medical history. The skull belonged to a girl between 11 and 12 years of age. She survived at least a few months after the surgery before her death. Archaeologists have not yet found out the reason for the girl’s death. It is not clear whether she died of post-surgery infection or something else.
Of course, archaeologists have studied the other human remains found in the mass grave in Burnt City. Studies conducted on 110 skeletons have revealed that the women aged between 20 and 25 years old. Therefore, the death of a person between 13 and 14 years old in the community of Burnt City was not considered an unusual phenomenon.
It is one of the wonders of the Iranian medical history that physicians in Burnt City knew about this disease as well as its causes and treatment methods some 5,000 years ago. The skull is now on display at the Tehran Museum of Medical History.