Category archives for Anthropology

“I eat you”: A cannibal greeting

Here’s a nice follow-up to my article about prion diseases. It’s an excerpt from Deadly Feasts: The “Prion” Controversy and the Public’s Health, by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Rhodes. The book documents the work of Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, the American physician who provided the first description of kuru. Gajdusek travelled to Papua New Guinea in…

Prehistoric Inca neurosurgery

The procedure known as trepanation, in which a hole is scraped or drilled in the skull, is an ancient form of neurosurgery that has been performed since the late Stone Age. Exactly why ancient peoples performed trepanation has remained a matter of debate: some researchers argue that it was performed for medical reasons, as it…

Trepanation film clip

The 3-minute film clip below is definitely not for the squeamish. It comes from a documentary called A Hole in the Head, made in 1998, and shows a Kisi medicine man performing the “operation of the skulls“.

An illustrated history of trepanation

The operation of Trepan, from Illustrations of the Great Operations of Surgery: Trepan, Hernia, Amputation, Aneurism and Lithotomy, by Charles Bell, 1815. (John Martin Rare Book Room at the University of Iowa’s Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.) Trepanation, or trephination (both derived from the Greek word trypanon, meaning “to bore”) is perhaps the oldest…

Free issue of Annual Review of Anthropology

The 2007 Annual Review of Anthropology has just been published, and is freely available online. It includes reviews called The Archaeology of Religious Ritual, The Archaeology of Sudan and Nubia, Genomic Comparisons of Humans and Chimpanzees and Anthropology and Militarism. 

On the peculiarities of the Negro brain

Black peoples’ brains are, of course, no more or less peculiar than those of any other people. The human brain is an extraordinarily complex organ, and there are just as many differences between the brains of people from the same ethnic group as there between the brains of people from different groups. Some racial peculiarities…