Cranial surgery is tricky business today. Patients will need an aseptic environment, specialized surgical instruments and copious amounts of pain medication both during and afterward.
In ancient Peru, trepanation - removing a section of the cranial vault using a hand drill or a scraping tool - was a lot more dangerous, and yet more common. They used it to treat a variety of ailments, from head injuries to heartsickness.
Excavating burial caves in the south-central Andean province of Andahuaylas in Peru, U.C. Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin and colleagues unearthed the remains of 32 individuals that date back to the Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1000-1250). Among them, 45 separate trepanation procedures were in evidence.