Survival after trepanation—Early cranial surgery from Late Iron Age Switzerland

Hossein Moghaddam Horri, Negahnaz; Mailler-Burch, Simone; Kara, Levent; Kanz, Fabian; Jackowski, Christian; Lösch, Sandra (2015). Survival after trepanation—Early cranial surgery from Late Iron Age Switzerland. International journal of paleopathology, 11, pp. 56-65. Elsevier 10.1016/j.ijpp.2015.08.002

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Trepanation is defined as the intentional perforation of the cranial vault with removal of a piece of skull bone. In Europe, trepanation is known to have been practiced at least since the Neolithic, and it can still be found today in East African native tribes. Two skulls with lesions from the Late Iron Age site Münsingen-Rain (420–240 BC) were investigated. The aim of this study was to analyse the lesions and to determine whether they were caused by surgical interventions. Both individuals were analysed by current morphologic-anthropological methods and radiological examinations were performed with a multislice CT-scanner. Additionally, this work surveys trepanations reported in Switzerland and calculates survival rates. In Switzerland, 34 individuals with trepanations have been published. As a tendency, the survival rate appears to be relatively high from the Neolithic to Late Antiquity but then decreases until Pre-Modern times. The 78% survival rate in Late Iron Age Switzerland indicates that the surgery was often performed successfully. Skull injuries sustained in conflicts could have been a reason for trepanation during the Iron Age.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine > Anthropology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Radiology, Neuroradiology and Nuclear Medicine (DRNN) > Institute of Diagnostic, Interventional and Paediatric Radiology

UniBE Contributor:

Hossein Moghaddam Horri, Negahnaz, Kara, Levent, Jackowski, Christian, Lösch, Sandra


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Antoinette Angehrn

Date Deposited:

18 Nov 2015 16:39

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:50

Publisher DOI:





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