Earliest New World Autopsy

The AP reports on an interesting moment in medical history:

A team of forensic anthropologists from the United States and Canada confirmed that the skull of a man buried on [St. Croix] island over the winter of 1604-05 showed evidence of having undergone an autopsy, scientists said.

Nearly half of the 79 settlers led by explorers Pierre Dugua and Samuel Champlain died over that winter from malnutrition and the harsh weather.

The skull in question was discovered during excavations by the National Park Service in June 2003. The top of the skull had been removed to expose the brain; the skull cap was replaced before the body was buried, the scientists said.

"This is the same procedure that forensic pathologists use to conduct autopsies today," said Thomas Crist from Utica College in upstate New York, who led the team of forensic anthropologists analyzing the remains.

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