Brain Surgery in ancient Africa. Warning ⚠: Graphic, gory content. Video is courtesy of Odd Africa.
The narrative most Africans have is that we were crude, primitive, uncivilized baboons sleeping in the trees when the Europeans came to Africa. That’s the story the explorers and the missionaries from Europe handed down to the descendants of the African slaves . But that’s what you tell slaves. To make their slavery permanent, you destroy their identity and then give them your identity of choice by recreating their story. Their descendants won’t have a heritage to hold on to and then they can depend on you forever. And for generations upon generations till today, we see ourselves as descendants of ancestors who were lost without a saviour and uncivilized till the slave masters arrived. The story is NOT true. I’ve always maintained that stand. There’s evidence to the contrary. In subsequent articles, I’ll be talking about that.
The evidence is overwhelming. There is archaeological evidence. There’s literary evidence. We were an advanced civilization before the Europeans came here to pillage our land. And they left us dead and dry, something we are yet to recover from today. We had education, engineering, advanced political systems, just name it.
And we had medicine. And even surgery to be specific. Anthropologists know the value of what I call cultural time capsules, i.e., things that still exist today but tell us about our ancient cultures. They can be physical objects or cultural practices. There are still loci of the human race that have remained more or less the same as they were centuries and millenia ago. You may not find such cultures on the streets of New York or Lagos but if you travel deep into the woods, you would meet a small community of people somewhere, who have not had much contact with any civilization in the last few centuries. These are the groups that inform us of who we were once upon a time. The community shown in this video is an example.
Is this real? Yes. It’s real. It’s not a film trick neither is it black magic. My surgical knowledge says it’s real and possible. You can do this without anesthesia. Putting someone to sleep or giving them something to take the pain away may not be necessary. Till today especially in most developing nations, women go through labour pains without any anesthesia. And I’m sure labour pains would be worse than the pain of having your head cut open. All the pain you would feel is the pain of the knife going through your scalp soft tissues and the bone. Naturally the brain lacks the capacity to feel pain. So once the skull bone is cut open, the surgeon can begin to work on the brain pain-free. Would the patient bleed to death? Not very likely. The way he has gone about it means that no major blood vessels will be encountered in this procedure. Folks with high pain thresholds can withstand this gruesome experience.
Today, lots of brain surgeries are done with the patient awake. It’s better for the patient and the surgeon. In case you’re interested, you can click here to see a video blogger taping his own brain surgery. As his skull was cut open and surgeons were working inside his brain, he was talking and filming the whole process. It’s no big deal. The only difference between him and the woman in the African video is pain. So once again, no big deal here.
But is this primitive? Yes, it is. I will not recommend this today. It was appropriate for the time but since we’ve advanced in knowledge, this will amount to criminality today. Remember that this is no longer what we do in Africa. It only reminds us of what we used to do long ago. But around that same time, the Europeans were not any better.
I won’t bore you with the details but when surgery started in Europe thousands of years ago, no anesthesia was administered. Then they moved to alcohol: they’d feed someone to stupor with alcohol, several people holding him down while the surgery took place. People would rather die of the disease than go through the pains of surgery. Then there were herbs like opium. And then nitrous oxide, etc, till the very refined anesthetic and analgesic methods we have today were invented. There’s a whole long list of scientists and researchers who were involved in the development of the methods and the methods took place in different parts of the world including Africa.
Same thing for neurosurgery and indeed all others parts of medicine. Humanity kept refining things gradually over time. What this man has done in this video must have even been more advanced than what other people did in some other parts of the world at that time. Ancient Africans should be celebrated.
Was he a witch doctor? Well, that was what his village people called him. What he was doing was beyond their understanding. They felt he must have magical powers. Then they called him a witch doctor. It’s always like that. The words ‘neurosurgeon’ and indeed ‘surgeon’ are recent. In Medieval Europe, physicians were too proud to do any treatment for a patient that would include bloodletting. So they passed such patients on to barbers who had sharp instruments for the work (the same barbing instruments). This group of barbers would later be called ‘barber-surgeons’ before the ‘barber’ prefix was dropped. And it was very primitive too. Even more primitive than this. If there was a European community that was still stuck in this practice till today, they would still refer to their surgeon as a barber.
The man in this video didn’t go to John Hopkins to learn surgery. This is a skill that must have been passed down to him from generations upon generations. This is a proof that thousands of years ago, long before the advent of the Europeans, we weren’t baboons just climbing the trees. Africa was so advanced that we even practised brain surgery.