31,000-year-old Stone Age skeleton reveals world’s oldest amputation

31,000-year-old Stone Age skeleton reveals world’s oldest amputation

A skeleton that underwent the world's earliest limb amputation

A skeleton that underwent the world’s earliest limb amputationTim Maloney, Griffith University

  • The world’s earliest amputation – dating back 31,000 years – has been discovered in Borneo.

  • The operation was performed on a child who went on to live for six to nine years.

  • It gives a great insight into the healing abilities of people in the Stone Age.

The world’s earliest amputation – dating back 31,000 years – has been discovered in Borneo.

In a study published in the journal Nature, a group of archaeologists and palaeopathologists from Australia and Indonesia presented their findings on the Stone Age skeletal remains of a young man found in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, missing his tibia and fibula, the bones between the glass. and ankle.

Because of the precision of cutting out the bones, they are left to be surgically amputated.

Studies of the skeletons that were buried in a cave found that, after the surgery, they lived for six to nine years.

Although the researchers were unable to determine the sex of the skeleton, they do know that the operation was performed during childhood, around 10-14 years of age.

The researchers explain that the findings show that foraging groups in tropical Asia had developed sophisticated medical knowledge, including surgery and aftercare, thousands of years before it was originally conceived. Previously, the earliest recorded amputation was carried out 7,000 years ago on a Neolithic farmer from France.

The natural pharmacy of the rainforest

Finding the skeleton

Finding the skeletonTim Maloney, Griffith University

The authors wrote, “the surrounding tissues, including veins, vessels, and nerves, were exposed and negotiated in a way that allowed this person not only to survive but to continue living with altered mobility.”

They explained that intensive post-operative patient care, including temperature regulation, bathing, wound care and disinfection, would be critical for the patient.

“It was amazing that this ancient hunter survived a severe and life-threatening childhood surgery, the wound was healed to make a stump, and they lived there for years in a mountainous terrain with mobility changed – suggesting a high level of community care. ,” co-author Dr. Melandri Vlok, a palaeopathologist from the University of Sydney, said in a press release.

Co-author Dr India Ella Dilkes-Hall from the University of Western Australia highlighted how ancient people used the rainforest’s natural pharmacy of medicinal plants to heal the sick and combat the rapid rates of infection in the tropics. hot and humid.

There was an early boom in the application of botanical resources to anesthetics, antiseptics, and other treatments to heal wounds, said Dr. Dilkes-Hall.

The study changed our perception of the past, according to Dr Dilkes-Hall. Archaeologists have previously described southeast Asia as “a cultural backwater” and that “there’s always been this trope that not much happened there” – those findings now change, she said.

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