Plenty of ancient resources mention medical procedures such as surgery. The early Chinese surgeon Hua Tuo (c. 140-208) is credited with being the first recorded person to use cannabis as an anesthetic. He reduced the plant to powder and mixed it with wine for administration prior to conducting surgery. Indeed, the Chinese term for “anesthesia” literally means “cannabis intoxication.”

In Ancient Greece, the oldest sources of information about Hellenic medicine are the two Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey (7th–8th century BC). Iliad provides an unforgettable picture of army surgery and anatomy at the time of the Trojan War in Asia Minor. It contains realistic descriptions of wounds and injuries of widely differing types. The most dangerous wounds were sword and spear thrusts, while less-dangerous were those inflicted by arrows. It is obvious that in Greek expeditionary force included professional healers, skilled in the extraction of embedded weapons, the arrest of hemorrhage, and the relief of suffering.

Halfway across the world, a Peruvian elongated skull displays metal surgically implanted after returning from battle, estimated to be from about 2,000 years ago. Not much information on the skull is available, other than the fact that the warrior had survived the surgical procedure because the broken bones around the implant were tightly fused.

Ancient Peruvian skull | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

2000-year-old Peruvian skull with signs of surgery. Image: Quora

According to Anderson Dourado on Quora, trepanation (the ancient surgical procedure in which a hole is drilled into the skull) was a common procedure in ancient Peru. In fact, there are more skulls with trepanations in ancient Peru than anywhere else in the world. The reason why trepanation was so common was that the ancient Peruvians mostly used clubs and sling stones as their weapons of choice in war. These weapons are more likely to cause head fractures compared to other types of weapons such as arrows, spears, and swords.

Survival rates of these surgical procedures were estimated to be as high as 70%. These surgeries were much more successful than the ones performed early on in the West because they were most likely performed in open-air environments with tools that were not used over and over again. Conversely, most of the early surgeries in the West occurred in crowded hospitals with surgical tools that were not properly disinfected and used on several different patients in a short period of time.

As for the elongated skull, no one knows for sure the exact purpose, however, some researchers theorize that it was the mark of elite status. They came to this conclusion because the remains of those with elongated skulls had a more diverse diet than those with normal skulls. The skulls were modified using pieces of wood that were tightly wrapped around the heads of infants. Interestingly enough, elongated skulls have been discovered all over the world—in Africa, Asia, North America, Europe, and Polynesia.