A RARE type of brain surgery was being performed 3,500 years ago, say archaeologists.

They discovered skeletons of two Bronze Age brothers who may have had leprosy.

One had a 30mm square hole in the skull where a piece of bone had been removed.

The procedure — trepanning — is one of the oldest known surgeries, dating back 7,000 years.

Holes were drilled to let evil spirits out.

Later, it was developed as a way to ease pressure on the brain — and is still used today.

But the find in Meggido, Israel, is the earliest example of its kind in the ancient Near East and rare in the region.

A square hole was made by carving four intersecting lines and using leverage to take bone out.

The lack of bone healing suggests the man died either during or shortly after the operation.

Rachel Kalisher, of Brown University in the US, said: “This uncommon procedure was done on an elite individual with developmental anomalies and infectious disease.”

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She added that she hoped the discovery “will deepen our understanding of medical care and cultural dynamics in ancient cities in this area”.

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