The Phenomenon of Ancient Trepanning

Discussion of Julian Jaynes's second hypothesis - that before the development of consciousness, humans operated under a previous mentality called the bicameral mind.
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The Phenomenon of Ancient Trepanning

Post by JBrubaker »

I was watching a video on early Canaanite archaeology, and showed a picture of a skull with a hole bored in the top right portion of the parietal bone, a position similar to many others I've seen over the years in instances of trepanning.

The narrator was saying the people of the time did it to release evil spirits from a person, but out of the blue, it struck me, NO!
It was done to let the person hear the gods again!

Consider: in a bicameral society on the brink of becoming conscious, not everyone becomes self-aware at the same moment; it's an individual and gradual process. So if one person in a small community becomes self-aware, and stops hearing the voice of the local gods or his ancestors, he might mention it to his neighbors and kinsman. So their solution would be to drill a hole in the conscious person's skull to provide a channel for the voices again.

But on the other hand, it may be the reverse, as common opinion has it, to release spirits that were talking to a schizophrenic. In a newly conscious community, some individuals still heard the voices of gods, and had to be dealt with as unauthorized prophets.
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Re: The Phenomenon of Ancient Trepanning

Post by Moderator »

Thank you, that's an interesting observation. This is definitely another practice that can benefit from a possible Jaynesian interpretation.
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Re: The Phenomenon of Ancient Trepanning

Post by benjamindavidsteele »

Some have speculated that there was some actual physiological and neurocognitive change that was happening across the human species, in explaining why the practice was so widespread. Maybe there was a change in brain and/or skull growth for some reason (dietary changes?) and the altered physical development was causing an increased prevalence of severe headaches. They were literally releasing pressure on the brain. It's speculative and I only offer it as an interesting possibility.
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