Skull Operations by the Ancients

The report below was made by Dr. Maziar Ashrafian Bonab and posted in the CAIS website in London hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav.

Kindly note the excepting one photo, all other pictures are Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia, notably lectures delivered in 2014.

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In 2000, a rather full skull with forehead and parietal bones was found during the archeological excavations in the historical cemetery of Chal-e Shahin in Kohgilooye and Boyer Ahmad Province.

Dr_Maziar_Ashrafian_Bonab_Shahr-e_SukhtehExamination of a skeleton in one of the excavations in Shahr-e Sookhteh (lit. Burnt City) (Source: CAIS).

In a primary probe of the finding, two discoid holes with some 0.7cm diameter, on parietal bones were found on the margins of which no trace or recovered bony tissues could be seen. Such sings are usually created shortly before death showing a kind of operation on the skull, which is called trepanation. This sort of operation used to be carried out in the ancient times in order to save the patients from physical and mental disorders.

In many primitive societies, magicians did take such a measure to let the poisonous vapor as well as satanic souls, known as the cause of illness, out the head of the patients with nervous and mental disorders or paranoia. They took a part of skull out or made a hole in it. Reports show that trepanation had been performed in different parts of the world especially in Central and Latin America.

burnt-city-eyeball1Skeleton of a young woman from Shahr-e Sookhteh (lit. Burnt City) From University of British Columbia Course-Summer 2014: “Ancient Inventions that Changed the World“). Note artificial eye in the eye socket of the skull; for more, see here…

Some unique samples of such skulls are now being kept at a number of museums and centers such as London University Archeological Institute and Medical Center of Kansas University.

In addition, some instances have been reported from other parts of the world including Europe, but rare in Asia and Middle East. However, the 4850- year-old trepanation sample discovered in Shahr-e Sukhteh (burnt city), Sistan va Baloochestan Province is one of the very ancient trepanation in the world and the second one in Iran belonging to a 13-year-old girl with chronic hydrocephalus.

 Trephination

Trepanation in Ancient Britain: The Critchel Down skull bearing evidence of surgery (From University of British Columbia Course-Summer 2014: “Ancient Inventions that Changed the World“). The circle of bone had been removed with sharp stone tools. The patient survived; when he died in old age, he was buried with the circle of bone that had been removed…perhaps he had kept this for religious or “Good Luck” reasons.

In anthropometric and pathology examinations, it was found out that this sample dates back to the first millennium BCE. This finding will be presented at the National Museum of Medical Sciences History.

Christopher I. Beckwith: Empires of the Silk Road

Readers are introduced to Professor Christopher I. Beckwith’s text: “Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present” (available on Amazon.com):

SR-Beckwith-1

  • Author: Christopher I. Beckwith
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Date: Reprinted in 2011
  • ISBN-10: 0691150346; ISBN-13: 978-0691150345

This book is recommended reading for Kaveh Farrokh’s Fall 2014 course “The Silk Route Origins and History“. Readers interested in the history of the Silk Route are also referred to the “Soghdian-Turkish Relations Symposium” (21-23 November, 2014) being held in Istanbul, Turkey (for brochure of conference, list of participants, etc., kindly click on images below to enlarge): Sogut_Program

Sogut_Program2

Christopher I. Beckwith’s text provides a comprehensive history of Central Eurasia from antiquity to the current era. This is an excellent text that provides a critical analysis of the Empires of the Silk Road by analyzing the true origins and history of this critical region of Eurasia.

ForeignerWithWineskin-Earthenware-TangDynasty-ROM-May8-08

Statue of a foreigner holding a wineskin, Tang Dynasty (618-907) (Photo source: Public Domain).

Beckwith examines the history of the great and forgotten Central Eurasian empires, notably those of the Iranic peoples such as the Scythians, the Hsiang-Nou peoples (e.g. Attila the Hun, Turks, Mongols, etc.) and their interaction with China, Tibet and Persia.

Pamir_Mountains,_Tajikistan,_06-04-2008

One of the critical land bridges of the Silk Route: the Pamir Mountains which as a 2-way gigantic connector between the civilizations of the east and West (Photo source: Public Domain).

Beckwith outlines the scientific, artistic and economic impacts of Central Asia upon world civilization. Beckwith also tabulates the history of the Indo-European migrations out of Central Eurasia, and their admixture with several settled peoples, resulting in the great (Indo-European) civilizations of India, Persia, Greece and Rome. The impact of these peoples upon China is also examined.

 Mid15thCenturyPotteryNorthernItaly

Italian pottery of the 1450s influenced by Chinese ceramic arts; housed at the Louvre Museum, Paris (Photo source: Public Domain).

This is a book that has been long overdue: Empires of the Silk Road places Central Eurasia within the major framework of world history and civilization. It is perhaps this quote by Beckwith which demonstrates his acumen on the subject:

The dynamic, restless Proto-Indo-Europeans whose culture was born there [Eurasia] migrated across and discovered the Old World, mixing with the local peoples and founding the Classical civilizations of the Greeks and Romans, Iranians, Indians, and ChineseCentral Eurasians – not the Egyptians, Sumerians, and so on– are our ancestors. Central Eurasia is our homeland, the place where our civilization started” (2009, p.319).

BegramGladiator

Second century CE Kushan ceramic vase from Begram with a “Western” motif: a Greco-Roman gladiator (Photo source: Public Domain). The Silk Route challenges the fallacy of a so-called “Clash of Civilizations” – to the contrary, East and West have had extensive adaptive contacts since the dawn of history.

New Course: The Silk Route-Origins and History

A new course by Kaveh Farrokh entitled “The Silk Route-Origins and History” is being offered at the University of British Columbia (final lecture on December 16, 2014):

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The lectures will be delivered at the Tapestry Center in the University of British Columbia’s Wesbrook Village. For information on registration, etc., kindly contact the University of British Columbia-Continuing Studies Division.

 Tajik-Nowruz

Tajik girls celebrate the Iranian Nowruz (New Year) on March 21, 2014 in Dushanbe, Tajikestan.

Below is a synopsis of the course as delivered in the Class syllabus:

The origins and history of the east-west Silk Route that connected the empires of Asia, Central Asia, Persia and the Romano-Byzantine West, as well as the lesser-known north-south route that connected Persia, the Caucasus and East- Central Europe. Emphasis will be placed on the development and transfer of the arts, music, culture, mythology, cuisine, and militaria. The peoples of the Silk Route from China across Eurasia, Central Asia, Persia to Europe are also examined

WAALM-Logo

The curriculum and impetus of this course is the direct outcome of meetings with the Cultural Diplomacy’s Department of Traditions & Cultural History of the WAALM Academy based in London, England. WAALM is affiliated with the Academic Council On The United Nations System (ACUNS) and The International Peace Bureau. WAALM was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Kaveh Farrokh has been featured in WAALM’s Tribune Magazine (click here…).

silk painting

Chinese painting of Leizu (Xi Ling Shi) the ancient Chinese empress credited with inventing silk in c. 2700 BCE; she was the teenage wife of the Yellow Emperor Huangdi.

shir-dar-samarkand

The “Shir Dar” (Lion Gate/doorway) of the Islamic college at Samarkand built originally in 1627 (Nafīsī, 1949, p. 62). The sun motif is characterized by Kriwaczek (2002, picture Plate 1) as ”…the image of Mithra, the rising and unconquered sun, Zoroastrian intercessor between God and Humanity” (Courtesy of Kriwaczek, 2002).

Chinese women silk-12th century CE

Chinese women produce silk in the 12th century CE.

Kyrgiz MusiciansKyrgyz musicians performing with traditional instruments. Hsiang-Nou races replaced Iranian speaking peoples of Central Asia; Despite this: These greatly assimilated the cultural and mythological traditions of their Iranic predecessors.

UBC-2-Migrations

One of ancient founding peoples of the Silk Route? Mummies bearing Caucasoid features uncovered in modern northwest China; these were either Iranic-speaking or fellow Indo-European Tocharian (proto-Celtic?). Archaeologists have found burials with similar Caucasoid peoples in ancient Eastern Europe. Much of the colors and clothing of the above mummies bear striking resemblance to the ancient dress of pre-Islamic Persia/Iran and modern-day Iranian speaking tribal and nomadic peoples seen among Kurds, Lurs, Persians, etc.  (Source: Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – this was also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, the annual Tirgan event at Toronto (June, 2013) and at Yerevan State University’s Iranian Studies Department (November, 2013) – Diagram is Copyright of University of British Columbia and Kaveh Farrokh). For more on this topic, see also here…

New Course: Forgotten Gifts of Persia

Kaveh Farrokh, an instructor at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division is offering a new course entitled:

The Forgotten Gifts of Persia

Below is the official course description:

Learn about the forgotten contributions of Persia to world civilization in the realm of technology and architecture. Topics include the world’s first movies, the artificial eye, the battery, aqueducts, refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, windmills, pontoon bridges and the world’s first hospital and medical university, as well as examples of the influence of Persian architecture in China, India, Rome, Western Europe, and throughout the Middle East.

Astrolabe-Persian-18-century1

[Click to enlarge] An 18th century Persian Astrolabe  housed in Cambridge Museum’s History of Sciences section Picture source: Fouman.com).

For details consult The Forgotten Gifts of Persia | UBC Continuing Studies (pdf):

  • Format: In Class
  • Code: UP723 W13 A
  • Start: Weds Mar 13, 2013
  • Schedule: Weds  1pm – 3pm
  • Location: Tapestry at Wesbrook Village (University of British Columbia Point Grey campus)

artificial-Eye

[Click to Enlarge] (RIGHT) Iranian researcher examining the artificial eye found at Shahr e Sookhteh – further tests are being conducted in Iran to determine the exact chemical composition of the prosthetic (LEFT) A curious feature of the “eye” are parallel lines that have been drawn around the pupil to form a diamond shape …READ MORE

There is also a determined drive from the Asian Studies department of the University of British Columbia to establish a full-time Iranian Studies program.

Professor Harjot S. Oberoi of the UBC Asian Studies program introduces “An Evening with Dr. Kaveh Farrokh – Sassanian Architecture” (Monday March 12, 2011). This talk was given as part of the overall drive to promote support for the University of British Columbia’s Iranian Studies and Persian language initiative.

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The History of Medicine in Ancient Persia

This article was originally written and posted by PressTV. Readers are encouraged to read over the critiques of this article at the end of this page.

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The history of medicine in Iran is as old and as rich as its civilization. In the Avesta, science and medicine rise above class, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender and religion.

Some of the earliest practices of ancient Iranian medicine have been documented in the Avesta and other Zoroastrian religious texts.

During the Achaemenid era (559-330 BCE), the 21 books of Avesta encompassing 815 chapters were an encyclopedia of science consisting of medicine, astronomy, law, social science, philosophy, general knowledge, logic and biology.

It can be inferred from these books that Zoroastrians placed great importance on personal hygiene, public health and the prevention of contagious diseases.

The best teachers of medicine and astrology were Iranian Magi and Mobeds (Zoroastrian priests) who passed their knowledge on to their pupils from one generation to the next.

According to Avestan texts, King Jamshid was the physician who initiated the custom of bathing with hot and cold water.

Iranians refrained from polluting the four elements. They would not bathe or wash dirty objects in flowing water, and urinating or spitting into water was considered a great sin.

Odorous materials were never thrown into the fire. Wild rue and frankincense were always burned inside houses to kill insects and bacteria, a custom which continues to this today.

The Persians, who lived in an empire stretching from the Indus valley in the east to the Aegean Sea in the west with considerable variation in climate and vegetation, became familiar with a vast range of medicinal plants.

The Avesta mentions several medicinal herbs including basil, chicory, sweet violet, and peppermint, while Bundahishn cites the names of thirty sacred medicinal plants.

Avestan texts list not only the various parts of plants such as roots, stems, scales, leaves, fruit and seeds used for treatment but also indicate which plant is the remedy for each disease.

According to the Zâdspram, a Pahlavi text of the ninth century AD, there are thousands of species of medicinal plants created by Ahura Mazda for the prevention of thousands of sicknesses created by Ahriman and that the best of these plants is haoma (Vedic soma).

Haoma (Ephedra Vulgaris) is indigenous to the Iranian plateau and contains a large quantity of Ephedrine which is effective in the treatment of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Garlic was used to reduce blood pressure, combat heart disease and treat infections.

Rue was once a popular remedy for earache, easing shaking fits and joint pain; it was also used to disinfect the house.

Bangha, extracted from Cannabis Indica seeds, has hallucinatory effects and was used as an anesthetic.

Frankincense was used for inhalation therapy.

Aloeswood was used in the treatment of cardiac disease and irregular heartbeat.

Many modern-day Iranian herbalists use reference books inherited from generations past, and still prescribe plants such as Borage, Sweet Marjoram, Fenugreek and Chicory as treatment.

Ancient Persian physicians believed that good health is the result of the ‘right’ measure of the elements of humor, and that sickness is the product of their excess or deficiency.

Therefore, the medicine of the body consists of keeping the body in good health and re-establishing balance and the medicine of the soul involves curing the body and preserving it from sin.

The Vendidad tells of three kinds of medicine practiced; medicine by the knife (surgery), medicine by herbs, and medicine by divine words, which according to the sacred text, is the best form of the three.

A Mazdean physician-in-training was required to treat and cure three non-Mazdean patients before receiving permission to treat Mazdeans.

In this way physicians were taught to treat any and all patients, whether friend or foe. Avestan scriptures did not restrict giving treatment to Mazdeans alone.

The Ordibehesht Yasht classifies physicians under five categories:

1 – Health Physician (Ashoo Pezeshk)

This physician was in charge of the well-being of the city, preventing the spread of contagious diseases by quarantining, keeping the four sacred elements of water, wind, earth and fire free from contamination, and making sure the sanitation of houses was maintained.

2 – Medical Examiner (Dâd Pezeshk)

Similar to modern-day pathologist/coroners, their duties included examining the dead, performing autopsies when required, the issuance of burial licenses and ascertaining the cause of death with an eye toward finding cures for future cases.

3- Surgeon (Kard Pezeshk)

Archeological excavations in the Burnt City in Sistan have yielded skulls that show signs of surgery. Surgical procedures, difficult and dangerous even in the present time, were much more so in the past when it was not possible to properly anaesthetize patients and medical instruments were rudimentary.

4 – Herbalist (Gyâh Pezeshk)

The origin of herbal medicine predates the development of agriculture and cultivation in Iran, yet some believe that the ancient Persians were the first to document the properties of herbs and to use plants to cure diseases.

5- Psychiatrists (Mantreh Pezeshk)

This physician used holy words and prayers to cure patients suffering from a sickness of body and soul which could not be cured with herbs.

Treatment consisted of verbal communication, the reading of poetry, listening to music and the recitation of prayers, including ones from the holy books of other nations, which were designed to console and heal the patient.

Avestan texts tell of consultation among the surgeons, herbalists and psychiatrists which indicates a form of medical association at the time.

Referring to a foreign physician when a Persian one was at hand was considered a sin, and a physician’s fee for service was based on the patient’s income while the fee for treating a priest was his pious blessing.

The first physician as documented by Avestan texts was Vivangahan, followed by Abtin, Atrat and Purshaspa.

Mani, Roozbeh, and Bozorgmehr are among the other notable Persian physicians named in the Avesta.

Credit for the establishment of hospital and training system must be given to the ancient Persians, as they founded the first teaching hospital in Gundishapur where medical students practiced on patients under the supervision of physicians.

The international university, founded in 271 AD by Shahpour I, was a center of learning and study in the fields of science and medicine.

The age-old school is still a center of knowledge in Khuzestan Province in southwestern Iran.

Gundishapur, mentioned in Ferdowsi’s (935 – 1020 AD) eternal epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings), was located near the city of Susa.

It was an important cultural and scientific center of the Sassanid era (226 – 652 AD) and scholars from various countries, one of whom was Diogenes, studied different fields including medicine at the university.

The library of the university known as the ‘city of Hippocrates’ consisted of eight floors and 259 halls containing an estimated 400,000 books.

The university was a gathering place for great scientists and physicians from all civilizations of the ancient world, a breeding ground for ideas and innovations.

Medical science, anatomy, dentistry, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, military command, architecture, agriculture and irrigation were taught in Greek or Syriac and later Pahlavi in the school.

Gundishapur physicians were required to pass special examinations to obtain a license for practicing medicine.

This well-organized medical institute was operated by a director, medical staff, pharmacists and servants, and upon its portal was engraved “knowledge and virtue are superior to sword and strength.”

The Sassanid ruler Khosrow Anushiravan (531 – 578 AD) who took an interest in the school and the advancement of medicine sent the Iranian physician Burzuyah to India to obtain medical and scientific books and translate them into the Pahlavi language.

In 550 AD, the world’s first medical conference was held on Anushiravan’s order in Ctesiphon. Hundreds of Mobeds and physicians from Persia and other countries attended this congress, a historical event which Ferdowsi versified in Shahnameh.

Gundishapur scholars and graduates were appointed to important governmental positions. The minister of health (Iran Dorostbod) was chosen from among the best physicians, and the minister of education (Iran Farhangbod), was an accomplished scholar of philosophy, logic, mathematics or psychology.

Iranian medicine, which combined medical traditions from Greece, Egypt, India and China for more than 4000 years, became the foundation of the medical practices of European countries during the 13th century.

Among the torchbearers of ancient Persia’s scientific heritage are Mohammad Zakaria Razi, Abu Nasr Farabi, Omar Khayyam and Avicenna, who used this knowledge to make further discoveries of benefit to all humankind.

Razi, known in the West as Razes (865-925 AD), considered the father of pediatrics and a pioneer of neurosurgery and ophthalmology, discovered and refined the use of ethanol in medicine.

Farabi also known in the West as Alfarabius (872-951 AD), is noted for his contributions to psychology. He wrote the first treatises on social psychology.

Avicenna (980-1037 AD), a prolific genius, introduced systematic experimentation into the study of physiology, experimental medicine, evidence based medicine, clinical trials, risk factor analysis, the idea of a syndrome and contributed to clinical pharmacology and neuropsychiatry.

Khayyam (1048-1131 AD) was a renowned astronomer who contributed to mathematics and calendar reform.

These outstanding scholars are among the many whose names will forever shine in the history of medicine and science and will always be revered by the Iranian people.

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Below are critiques of the PressTV article that have been bought to the attention of www.kavehfarrokh.com.

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—–Original Message—–
From: Kaywan Dashti
To: manuvera@kavehfarrokh.com
Sent: Fri, Aug 6, 2010 1:47 pm
Subject: Re: The History of Medicine in Ancient Persia

دکتر بر استاد ارجمند 

نوشته های شما و پژوهش هایتان را دنبال می کنم. ارزنده و سودمند و ایران خواهانه است… 

یک یادآوری کوچک، در پیشگاه ساحت استادانه شما. 

در فارسی واژه هایی دلریم همانند، شاه لوله، شاه بیت حافظ، شاه کار مثلا بهزاد، و یا شاهراه ایران و چین……

واژه شاه، مقدس ترین، و در عین حال والاترین و با شکوه ترین واژه برای بیان یک اثر و هنر و بنا و یا هر چیزی دیگری است. و ما هنگام ترجمه شاه راه نمی گیوییم 

Road of Kings

و یا در ترجمه و برگردان شاه کار آقای بهزاد نمی گوییم

The painting of Kings of Mr. Bhzad

و به همین نسبت در باره هر واژه دیگری که در آن شاه در آغاز دو واژه آمده باشد. 

در فارسی این دو را ، مضاف و مضاف الله می گویند، که یکی به بزرگی آن دیگری گواهی می دهد…. از اینرو، برگردان اثر شکوهمند و تاریخی و حماسی و جهانی استاد توس به 

Books of Kings

بسیار نتبجا، نادرست، ناروا، و غیر علمی است…

بویژه از شما استاد فرهیخته انتظار نمی رود که در پخشاندن آن کوشا باشید 

در کجای نام کتاب فردوسی شما واژه «شاهان» می بینید که آنرا  «کینگز» ترجمه کرده اید…. 

برگردان درست نام کتاب غرور آفرین «شاهنامه» به انگلیسی 

The Master Piece by Ferdowi 

می باشد. همچنان که شاه لوله، یعنی بهترین، کارآمدن، بزرگترین و بی نظیرترین لوۀه و یا شاهکار یعنی ارزنده ترین و بی همتا ترین اثر وو دیگران… از اینرو، هنگامی فردوسی این را برگزید، در حقیقت بی همتا ترین و ارزنده ترین نام را برای آن در نظر گرفت.. 

از سوی دیگر، نامه، بر خلاف رسم امروز زبان فارسی، این نامه ای نیست که به عمه و یا دایی مان می نویسم. نامه کوتاه شده «نامک» در ایران باستان است. همانند ختای نامک   یا خدای نامه……. و نامه و یا دفتر هر دو بجای «کتاب»  می باشد….

با پوزش از یادآوری 

Gundishapur, mentioned in Ferdowsi’s (935 – 1020 AD) eternal epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings), was located near the city of Susa.