Not all ancient technology is primitive. In fact, stone knives have been used for thousands of years to perform some fairly advanced surgeries. The most dramatic example is trepanation, the boring of a hole into the skull to relieve inter-cranial pressure.
Obsidian — a type of volcanic glass — can produce cutting edges many times finer than even the best steel scalpels.At 30 angstroms — a unit of measurement equal to one hundred millionth of a centimeter — an obsidian scalpel can rival diamond in the fineness of its edge.When you consider that most household razor blades are 300 to 600 angstroms, obsidian can still cut it with the sharpest materials nanotechnology can produce.
Even today, a small number of surgeons are using an ancient technology to carry out fine incisions that they say heal with minimal scarring.Dr. Lee Green, professor and chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta, says he routinely uses obsidian blades.“The biggest advantage with obsidian is that it is the sharpest edge there is, it causes very little trauma to tissue, it heals faster, and more importantly, it heals with less scarring,” he said. “It makes for the best cosmetic outcome.”He explained that steel scalpels at a microscopic level have a rough cutting edge that tears into tissue, a function of the crystals that make up the metal. Obsidian, meanwhile, cleaves into a fine and continuous edge when properly cut.
Green said. “Under the microscope, you could see the obsidian scalpel had divided individual cells in half, and next to it, the steel scalpel incision looked like it had been made by a chainsaw.”