Headaches may be a case of the aspirins today, but Paleolithic doctors liked to fix them by drilling holes in people’s skulls. Known as trepanation, the procedure was one of the most shocking treatments ever used in primitive medicine, particularly for brain conditions such as seizures, cerebral hemorrhage, depression, and other mental disorders. Archaeologists have even unearthed evidence of trepanning as an exorcising ritual in a Russian port city Rostov-on-Don. While the first trepanations bored through a skull using an incredibly sharp stone known as an Obsidian blade, surgeons developed mechanical drills to improve surgical efficiency.
What makes these surgeries even more stunning is the high survival rate among those who went through them under the most archaic tools, not once, but repeatedly in some cases. Moreover, doctors still practice trepanation today to treat certain types of traumatic brain injury, albeit using safer, painless, and more sophisticated instruments. It also has a more modern name: craniotomy. While some surgeons still use Obsidian blades, particularly in cosmetic medicine, these instruments are not FDA-approved.