Pre-Columbian civilizations were quite advanced and many Inca, Aztec and Mayan cities rivaled the great European centers of the time of discovery.
In addition to their great achievements in the fields of architecture, agriculture, social and religious organization, these people were also excellent doctors.
Research published in the journal World Neurosurgery revealed that the Incas perfected techniques for scraping, incising and drilling skulls.
The technique, called trepanation, has been used by different peoples around the world for thousands of years to treat cases of head trauma, headaches, epileptic seizures and mental illnesses.
This type of surgery was already known even in ancient Greece, but according to the new study, the Incas were more advanced in this field.
“They seemed to know the cranial anatomy, avoiding areas that bled the most,” said David S. Kushner, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami.
The result of the study was based on the evaluation of more than 800 skulls, discovered in excavations in Peru, that were operated by the Incas between 400 BC and 1500 AD.
With so many samples found, it is very likely that the Incas were the people who made the most use of trepanation.
According to the researchers, the mortality rate from these surgeries in the Inca Empire varied between 17 and 25%.
For comparison purposes, during the North American Civil War, which took place between 1861 and 1865, mortality rates from cranial operations were between 46 and 56%.
Scientists do not know the reason for the Incas’ success, but they suggest that hygiene may have been a determining factor.
“We still don’t know how the ancient Peruvians prevented infections, but they were very good at it,” concluded Kushner.
Furthermore, it was possible to notice that the holes made in the skulls became more refined over time, decreasing in size and gaining a more professional appearance.
“Physical evidence definitely indicates that these ancient surgeons refined the procedure over time. Their success is truly impactful,” said Kushner.