A massive haul of bones discovered in a medieval graveyard has given an insight into the medical capabilities of people 1,500 years ago. The skeletons, found in central Italy, show that many soldiers buried close to one another survived after suffering blows to the head with maces and battle axes.

There are signs of medical interventions with one man going on to live despite having a two inch hole in his head, probably caused by a Byzantine mace. The edges of the wound are smooth and have no fragments, suggesting the victim went through the equivalent of medieval brain surgery.

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