General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> A description of sling stone injury

Message started by David Morningstar on Jan 17th, 2010 at 5:39pm

Title: A description of sling stone injury
Post by David Morningstar on Jan 17th, 2010 at 5:39pm

I am trying to scrounge JSTOR access (Thearos, can you help with this?) but this article gives up the goods on the first page  8-)

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by Thearos on Jan 18th, 2010 at 4:49am
Trephining in the South Seas
Author(s): J. A. Crump
Source: The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 31
(Jan. - Jun., 1901), pp. 167-172
Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Stable URL:
Accessed: 18/01/2010 04:43
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( 167 )
eighteen months ago I wrote a short article on " Native Surgery in New
Pommern" (New Britain) to the small monthly periodical issued by the Missionary
Society of which I am an agent. That article has excited so much interest in the
colonies-and even in Europe-that perhaps I am right in assuming that a more
detailed account, containing the results of my further research, may be found of
value to the cause of science and acceptable to the Anthropological Institute.
My previous inquiry was limited to New Britain itself, and in that part of
the district the operation of trephiniing is practised on the skull solely in cases of
In the native fights the ling is the most formidable weapon used, a smooth
stone as large as a pullet's egg being thrown with moderate accuracy but
considerable force. A blow from a sling-stone is generally the 'cause of the
fracture for which the operation is found necessary; the depressed portionis of bone
or haemorrhage
beneath the skull causing compression, and death alm
ost invariably
results if the injury is not attended to. Injury caused by the stone-headed club is
almost instantly fatal, but the flat two-edged club is not so deadly and permits of
an occasional operation.
The man who performs the operation is the wizard or " tena-papait " of the
tribe or district, using a piece of shell or a flake of obsidian for a trephitie.
An incision is made over the seat of the fracture generally in the shape of a
Y or V, and then perhaps some loose fragment is picked out with the finger nail,
andi while assistants hold back the scalp, the fractured bone is scraped, cut and
picked away, leaving the brain exposed to the size of half-a-crown. Then, all loose
pieces having been removed, the scalp is careftglly laid down and the wound
bandaged with strips of the banana stalk about 4 inches wide. These strips are
when dry of a spongy nature, the water which formerly filled the cells being
replaced by air. Moreover the inner surface is silky to the touch and forms an
admirable dressing for tender surfaces. It is astringent in its action and nlon-
absorbent, all discharge escaping below the bandage. Sometimes a few bruised
leaves are applied before bandaging. The patient is generally insensible from the
time of the injury, and, if consciousness returns during the operation, soon faints
away again.
In five or six days the bandages are renewed and in two or three weeks a
complete recovery is the result, The number of deaths is about 20 per cent., most
Journal of the Anthropologieal lns4itute, T-ot. XXXI, Plate XII.
a b c
a b c
Jourxal of theAxooioical Iiftu .XXX, F .t .
- -Er
1 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~4
168 REv. J. A. CRUMP.-Trephining in the South Seas.
of these resulting from the first injury and not from any complication after the
operation. Nearly all the deatlhs take place during or immediately after the
operation, and I am assured that if a patient once becomes conscious he never fails
to make a good recovery.
I have recently discovered that on New Ireland (Neu Mecklenburg) the
operation is performied
not only in the case of fracture but where there is epilepsy
and certaini forms of insanity as the result of pressure on the brain. I have in
my possession a skull which has been successfully trephined in no less than five
places, the man meeting his death some years after the last operation by a blow
an axe. This man suffered from severe headache with local throbbing,. The
operation was performed each time in the region of the pain, and though no cure
seems to have been effected, the operation was at any rate perfectly successful.
The most common form trephinilng takes on Gerrit Demp Island and the central
part of New Ireland is cutting two or three channels down the forehead 3 to
4 inches long. This is done for headache and what is described as a beating or
plucking sensation.
There seems to be some benefit in cases of trephining for epilepsy at least for
a time. One native at Falabog on the west coast of New Ireland with whomn
I conversed had been trephined on the top of tlhe skull for this malady and had
had no recurrence since the operation. In no case is it thought necessary to avoid
the course of the sutures in performing this operation.
After trephining has been performed there is frequent partial temporary
paralysis which almost invariably passes away, though in a few cases it is
permanent. Idiocy is an occasional result also. But the natives affirm that while
the cures of insanity and epilepsy are many, the instances where either malady
supervenes after the operation are exceedingly few.
I have pleasure in forwarding herewith three skulls bearing indisputable
evidence of the performance of the operation and its success.
No. 1 is the skull of Toara, a native of Kabakada on the north coast of New
Britain, who was struck with a sling-stone aind trephined. He never became
conscious, and died two hours after the operation had been performed. The man
wlho threw the sling-stone is still living as is also the " tena-papait " who
performed the operation. From the latter I got my information. The marks of
the instrument are easily visible.
No. 2 is the skull of Toruruke, a native of Kabakada, and shows the growth of
new bone. He was trephined about seven years before his death.
No. 3 is the skull of Tighan, from the village of Olotai, situated about six miles
inland from Palabog on the west coast of New Ireland. This operation was
performed to cure headache. There are many people in this village who have been
trephined. It has become fashionable, and a handsome girl or boy is generally
persuaded to submit to the operation as an aid to longevity, there being no absolute
need for its performnance.
REV. J. A. CRuMP.-Trephining in the South Seas. 169
after having read Mr. Crump's paper to the Fellows
of the Institute present, said:-The paper by Mr. Crump which I have had the
honour of readiing to you is descriptive of the three skulls which are here before
you. They are skulls of Melanesian natives. We are informred also that the
individual natives fromi
whom these specimens were obtained have been operated
on by the wizard or high priest; further the history of each of these three cases
is known to Mr. Crump. When I received this paper together with the specimens
I recognised at once its great importance to anthropology, important because, as
far as I know of such surgical operations of the Pacific Islanders, these are the
first specimens of which we have absolutely reliable clinical histories. Mr. Crump's
paper is of very great value because among these clinical histories there is evidence
that the opening of the skull was done for the condition of headache. From the
time of the original publication on the subject of neolithic skulls by Broca
this possibility of the operation having been done for headache has been discussed
and has been rejected by many anthropologists. To-niight we are in the position
of being able to discuss this question with much more certainty than we could do
before to illustrate this point in regard to headache. I venture to show to you
some lantern slides of Peruvian skulls which I have collected, irn which the
operation of trephining has been performed in the same region as in these skulls.
As you will not be able to see at a distance the points in the specimens I have
made photographs of each, and we will now put them on the screen (Plates XII,
No. 1 is the skull of Toara, a native of Kabakada on the north coast of New
Pommern, who was struck with a sling-stone and trephined. He never became
conscious, and died two hours after the operation had been performed. The man
who threw the sling-stone is still living,

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by Thearos on Jan 18th, 2010 at 4:50am
as is the  " tena-papait " who performed
the operation. From the latter Mr. Crump got his information. The marks of the
instrument are easily visible.
P1. XII, l, is the front view of the skull; XII, la, is the side view showing
the opening. It is obvious from the modified photograph that the edges of the hole
are sharp and unhealed. The relation of the opening to the coronal and sagittal
sutures indicates that in this case the injury was over the motor region. A patienrt
with a depressed fracture in that spot, if the fracture is severe, would be unconscious
and paralysed on the opposite side of the body.
I show again on the screen under more favourable conditions of light the
photograph of the opening. (Plate XIII, 1.) You see now the slips made by the
wizard, using a sharp shell or flake of obsidian for a trephine. The opening has
been deliberately made by sawing out, and the same slips can be seen on some of
the neolithic skulls. This is the best of the three specimens as regards showing the
purposive nature of the operation. There is no indication of the opening having
been healed, and the patient, no doubt, as Mr. Crump describes, died two hours
after the operation.
No. 2 is the skull of Toruruke, a Kabakada native, and shows the growth of
new bone. He was trephined about seven years before his death.
170 REV. J. A. CRUMP.-
lTrephining in the South Seas.
This is another sling-stone case, but it is in a particular part of the skull.
You see in front view (P1. XII, 2c) that the ridge of the superciliary ridge has beenl
depressed towards the orbit, and the suture between the frontal and lachrymal bone
has been started downwards. There has been a fissured fracture running along the
line I have shown you. The region is exactly over the frontal sinus. The front
wall of the sinus has been destroyed and in its place we have a saucer-shaped
The patient suffered from a depressed fracture of the frontal sinus which has
been partly operated on, viz., by picking out the fragments of the anterior wall.
This is not trephining in the proper senise of the word; there is no indication of
scratches or sawcuts.
I would like to point out that in the Broca Museum at Paris there is a
parallel example of a Peruvian skull where, however, in the region of the frontal
sinus there has been a deliberate trephiniing by boring. Evidently the operator
had bored through the anterior wall with the intention of breaking dowil the bone,
but he found himself in a new part of the world as far as he was concerned, for he
saw that he was not through the skull but had bone still beyond. Under these
circumstances he abandoned the operation. That is an instance of distinct
trephining. This case here is a mere treatment of depressed fracture of the
anterior wall of the frontal sinuses, and by using the electric light you can see
that the inner table here is intact. Here is the lateral view of the skull and here
is another view of it. The last photograph is simply a magnified view of the
I will now give you the details of the third case,
No. 3 is the skull of Tighan fromi the village of Olotai, situated about six
miles inland from Palabog on the west coast of New Ireland. This operation was
performed to cure headache.
Here, you see, as I said just now, surgical ethics do not appear to enter into
the matter. It is a very interesting specimnen. It is an ordinary case of making
an excavation like a gutter into the skull, almost an exao,geration of a linear
osteotomy, that is to say, cutting into the bone in a line in order to relieve the
so-called tensian. In this case there has been an opening made of the inner table
in a slight degree, to alleviate the sense of pressure from which patients suffering
from all varieties of headache are- so apt to complain of so persistently. The
operation in this case has been over the frontal eminence where people usually
refer all forms of generalized headache.
Plate XII, 3a, is a lateral view showing the opening. In Plate XII, 3b, I
show you it as seenl from above.
In P1. XIII, 3, which is the magnified photograph of the opening, I simply
want to show that this is a healed case. You notice that the edges of the opening
are rounded, and that the whole site of the operation is smoothed over.
With that I bring to an end my remarks on Mr. Crump's paper. It is quite
obvious that he has a wonderful knlowledge of this operation beiing performed in
this island by the islanders, and it is a great loss to the Institute that he has not
given us niore facts to go upon.
We are now in a position to explain the neolithic skulls better. This photo-
-Tirephtining in the South
Seas. 171
graph I now show I made of all the cases of neolithic trephining which were
known to mre,
and in which I had the opportunity of verifying the site of the
operations. I have pointed out that the field of the operations fell within what is
called the motor area of the brain, the portion of the brain, irritation of which by
a depressed fracture of a limited area would cause epilepsy, and epilepsy as you
know among all untutored people, is apt to be ascribed to the influence of a spir-it.
Further we know that all such fractures are sources of headache and finally we
recognise that if the injured part of the skull is trephined and the depressed
portions of the bone removed that the headache will be cured and possibly the
epilepsy if the damaged portion of the brain is also removed. But the mere
cessation of pressure suffices sometimes to cure the epilepsy. Broca's explanation
that the operations were done for epilepsy was, we may reasonably suppose,
justified by this consideration, but it was necessary to support this view by
evidence from the savage races, and here we find the operation is performed
exactly under the circurnstances which I have described, viz., the condition of
depressed fracture leading to epilepsy.
This is one of the neolithic skulls showing scratches on the margin of the
opening, and is a parallel to Mr. Crump's first skull.

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by Thearos on Jan 18th, 2010 at 4:50am
Coming now to the question of trephining for headache I find that in the
Peruvian prehistoric skulls, which I examined most of, the trephinings seemed to
have been performed in the frontal region.
I show a photograph taken from Squier's Perut, and probably from a case that
terminated fatally.
A portion of the skull has been removed by very neat saw-cuts, but there is
an indication of altered bone round the site of operation undergoing suppuration,
and from the sharpness of the edges it is reasonable to suppose that there was a
fatal infectionl of the wound.
The next photographs are of two specimens from America; in one you see
there is a healed saw-cut, and in the other we have what may be a healed
depressed fracture.
Both these instances you see are in the frontal region. If now, as appears
from Mr. Crump's paper, we have definite absolute evidence that the operation is
done for headache and is done in the frontal region, then I think we have reason-
able ground for believing that the-Peruvian operation was probably done for head-
On the question of this form of gutter operation for headache both the
photograph I showed you on the screen and the specimen demonstrate it. You will
see that in such cases we have a gutter with symmetrical' sides, symmetrical in
depth anld steepness suggesting that it was made by deliberate sawing out first of
one side and then of the other.
A skull found in this country shows an openilng simulating a trephine hole. The
photograph of the skull is now on the screen, and I have also brought the original
with me. It is a skull which Mr. Henty found in the British camp near Worthing.
I was present at the excavation and as he handed me the skull I recognized the
character of the specimen. I showed the skull to the Society of Antiquaries when
all the finds were described. In this particular case we have an oval opening with
172 REv. J. A. CRUMP.-Tfrephining
in the South Seas.
ledge-like sides leading down to an opening in the ininer table. On examination
internally there is no injury to the inner table whatsoever, it suggests, therefore,
that this opening of the skull was scraped out. It was done before the man's
death because the bone is healed. In front of this is a longer inark produced
obviously by a sword or some similar instrument. What is the nature of the hole ?
On looking at tbhe opening very closely you see there is an indication, as if one
side was a little steeper than the other. I think that skull No. 3 of Mr. Crump's
will help us to determine whether this was a trephine opening or lnot. At present
I think the evidence is against it. You must take it from me that one side does
seem smooth and the other seems a little more broken. This side of the opening is
steeper and smoother than the other which is rougher and shades off more gradually
on to the skull. Before this, when I was examiining this skull, and unable to make
up my mind definitely, I found in the Blandford Museunm
at Salisbury the skull of
a New Zealander who had been killed by the well-kilown horizontal cut with a
stone axe behind the ears at the occipital protuberance. But before he had been
killed he had been cut at and had avoided a fatal blow; the edge of the
weapon, however, had cut down to the bone, and produced a smooth edge on one
side, arid on the other the rough edge like this Saxon skull. I would like to draw
your attention to the fact that Mr. Bulleid found, on one of the two skulls in the
pile dwelling at Glastonbury, a glancing cut which had removed a portion of the
skull, but the man had been killed by a blow at the back of the skull near the
respiratory centre, which the savages long ago have found out to be the fatal spot,
and which Professor Haddon has fully described for the Torres Straits.

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by Fundibularius on Jan 18th, 2010 at 5:28am
Very interesting texts.

I had heard about trepanation in pre_Columbian Peru as a means to relieve of headache and migraine, but not as a possible cure for sling_inflicted skull injuries on the Melanesian Islands. Thanks!

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by Fundibularius on Jan 18th, 2010 at 5:51am
I found the following passage in Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon, Schnee 1920 (year of print; it had of course been written before the First World War) about Neupommern and the "A-Melanesians" (

"Kriege sind noch heute [i.e. around 1914] im Gange. Frauenraub und Blutrache bilden die Ursachen. Namentlich mit den Küstenleuten werden erhebliche Kämpfe ausgefochten. - Schleuder, Keule, Axt bilden die Hauptwaffen, daneben kennt man den Speer; bei den Sulka und O'Mengen den schön gearbeiteten, beinalten elliptischen und oblongen Schild. Die Schleuder ist in der Hand des Eingeborenen eine ungemein gefährliche Waffe, da der Stein selten sein Ziel verfehlt. [...] . Schleudersteinwunden werden häufig durch Trepanation geheilt. Die erlegten Feinde, Mann, Frau und Kinder, werden von den Siegern verspeist."

It says that the tribes are used to fighting a lot of wars, and that their main weapons are slings, clubs and axes. The sling is mentioned as being extremely dangerous, "as the slingstone seldom misses its target". Slingstone wounds are often healed by means of trepanation [and the enemies killed are usually eaten by the victors  :o].

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by slingbadger on Jan 18th, 2010 at 7:39am
This also was used in Europe. Archeologists have found many, many skulls from different time periods with similar skull injuries and trepanations. In most cases, the trepanning shows signs of healing, indicating that the person survived. It was first thought that this had  some kind of religious purpose, but, now attitudes are starting to change. Most agree that the trepanning is from some kind of skull injury.

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by Thearos on Jan 18th, 2010 at 8:13am
Neupommern ? Gab's auch ein Neumecklenburg, oder ?

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by Fundibularius on Jan 18th, 2010 at 8:46am
8-) Ja, auch in der Suedsee:  :)

Title: Re: A description of sling stone injury
Post by winkleried on Jan 27th, 2010 at 9:34am
If ya select the print option you will get a high quailty PDF that you can save to your system.....

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