Medicine: A Weight Is Lifted

A hole in the head is one of the oldest operations in medical history. Some half a million years ago, Stone Age medicine men were treating their patients by trephining (cutting out a circular piece of the skull). Evidence of their flint-knife gouging can still be seen in prehistoric skulls. Witch doctors in Melanesia and northern Africa still perform similar operations to cure insanity (a hole in the head is a handy exit for demons).

Sixty-five years ago the superintendent of a Swiss insane asylum, Gottlieb Burckhardt, cured a patient of auditory hallucinations...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!