Trepanning: religion or science   Leave a comment

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A quarter of a century has passed and the young Jean Guilaine [sporting a Rastafarian knitted hat on one of his first digs up at the Alaric dolmen site] is now a lofty eminence, a Professeur de la College de France. And Henri Duday, who went to school in Carcassonne with the man who rebuilt and still lives in the old Lime-Kiln house – he has become a polymath of the medical/forensic/anthropologic/archaeologic world with an ever-expanding department at the University of Toulouse. But still no-one has returned to Alaric mountain to reopen la Caouno de Moux, and explore the story of the 100 skeletons and the head with the hole.

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And may never return. The conviction is steadily growing in me that humanity may have reached Peak Knowledge – just as we have reached or indeed passed Peak Oil. I fear that we have extracted the maximum amount of oil from the ground, and, with the collapse of the global financial system, we have extracted the most information we will ever get from the planet. There will probably never again be sufficient money to fund all the research we would like into areas such as archaeology and anthropology – and that we have blown our chances of ever finding out what happened, here in my little village in the Corbières.

Was trepanation part of a religious rite as one French writer thinks – ‘One of the strangest practices, which may also be linked to a religious aspect, was the trepanation  practiced on the Grandes Causses.  It should be noted that trepanations were performed on both the dead and the living, and individuals of all ages, which strengthens the religious hypothesis : the hole in the skull is intended to allow the escape of the spirit.’

Or was this an extreme surgical intervention? Was there an excessive amount of manganese or lead in the trepanned skull? Or in the bones of the other 100 remains?

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Was Alaric mountain – which dominates the immediate horizon of the protohistoric mining communities  of the mineral-rich Minervois Hills, just as the Pic du Canigou looming behind at the Pyrennean periphery dominates the wider horizon – were these considered  special places – of surgery, of healing?

It is more than likely we will never know, now.

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