Trepanned skull

por | Dic 14, 2012 | English articles, Necrópolis islámica


Trepanned skull found in the Islamic necropolis is dated between the 8th and 11th centuries

Bone regeneration indicated the person had lived after the operation


Trepanned skull belongs to a male, which makes it an extremely rare find since its age is estimated to be older than other trepanned skulls previously found in Alava by the team of anthropologist and forensic doctor, Francisco Exteberria Gabilondo, and those in the Gormaz region of Soria made by the researchers of the University of Leon.

Cráneo trepanado

The Islamic necropolis in Tauste doesn’t cease to surprise. Finding a trepanned skull that dates between the 8th and 11th centuries is an important discovery that joins the list of those made by the anthropologists and forensic doctor, Francisco Etxeberria Gabilondo, and his team of five experts of the Scientific Society of Aranzadi and the University of the Basque Country during the excavations at the temple in Armentia (Alava), and two others found in the Gormaz region of Soria by the team of researchers of the University of Leon managed by the forensic anthropologist, Luis Caro Dobon.

The remains found at the excavation sites in Alava and Gormaz were dated between the 12th and 14th centuries, whereas the remains uncovered in Tauste last year in the same necropolis were dated by the carbon 14 test between the 8th and 11th centuries. The Islamic necropolis in Tauste and the one in Pamplona are considered the oldest of that period in the Iberian Peninsula.   

Anthropologist, Miriam Pina Pardos, the author of the study on the remains, and her team member, Leyre Alconchel, point out the significance of this find. Even though some signs imply some subsequent infection, bone regeneration indicates that the person survived the trepanation. The fact that this kind of surgery was successfully performed and that after it the patient had survived proves the existence of the advanced knowledge of this surgical practice.

On the other hand, the archaeologist and excavation director, Francisco Javier Gutierrez Gonzalez, estimated there might be around 4,500 tombs. The most interesting fact revealed during the last intervention was that the burials had two levels. This, in turn, means the necropolis didn’t only cover a large territory but also remained there for an extensive period of time. These facts make it possible to reconsider the importance that Tauste as a city is believed to have had.

Despite few written references from before Alfonso I conquest, it seems to have been an important settlement in the Al-Andalus Upper March. Besides, the results of a recent architectonic study of the tower of Santa Maria Church show that its structural features might not correspond to the 13th-century Mudejar-style as previously believed, but rather date back to the 11th-century Zagri-style. According to these studies, the building of the Giralda in Seville (for example) that dates back to the 12th century contains some logical elements that represent subsequent constructive evolution based on the models of Zagri-style minarets. Similar features can be found in Tauste structures.

miriam y leyre 1
excavacion fase 3 01

 Anthropologist Miriam Pina, and her team member, Leyre Alconchel, study the remains. Archaeologist and excavation director, Francisco Javier Gutierrez, professor of Medieval History, Carlos Laliena Corbera, and the students of Zaragoza University visited Tauste to appreciate peculiar features of the site in person.


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The translation of this page is included in the Zaragoza Provincial Council Grants for the Dissemination and Revitalisation of Cultural Heritage in the year 2022.

La traducción de está página esta incluida dentro de las Ayudas de la Diputación Provincial de Zaragoza para la Difusión y Dinamización del Patrimonio Cultural en el año 2022.