A 31,000-year-old stone age skeleton reveals the world’s oldest limb amputation

A 31,000-year-old stone age skeleton reveals the world’s oldest limb amputation

A skeleton that has undergone the first limb amputation in the world

A skeleton that has undergone the first limb amputation in the worldTim Maloney, Griffith University

  • The world’s first limb amputation, dating back 31,000 years, was discovered in Borneo.

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

  • It gives a fascinating insight into the medical abilities of people in the Stone Age.

The world’s first limb amputation, dating back 31,000 years, was discovered in Borneo.

In a study published in the journal Nature, a group of archaeologists and paleopathologists from Australia and Indonesia detailed their findings on the Stone Age skeletal remains of a young man found in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, which is missing the tibia and fibula, the bones between the knee and ankle.

The precision with which the bones have been cut means that they have been surgically amputated.

Studies of the skeleton buried in a cave found that, after the surgery, they continued to live for six to nine years.

Although the researchers were unable to determine the sex of the skeleton, they know that the surgery took place in childhood, roughly between the ages of 10 and 14.

The researchers explain that the results show that foraging groups in tropical Asia had developed sophisticated medical knowledge, including surgery and aftermarket, many thousands of years before initially thought. Previously, the first recorded amputation was performed 7,000 years ago on a Neolithic farmer from France.

The natural pharmacy of the rainforest

The skeleton being discovered

The skeleton being discoveredTim Maloney, Griffith University

The authors wrote that “the surrounding tissue, including veins, vessels and nerves, has been exposed and negotiated in such a way as to allow this individual not only to survive, but also to continue living with impaired mobility.”

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

“It was a huge surprise that this ancient collector survived a severe and life-threatening childhood operation, that the wound healed to a stump and that they then lived for years in mountainous terrain with impaired mobility – suggesting a high degree of community care, ”said co-author Dr. Melandri Vlok, a paleopathologist at the University of Sydney, in a press release.

Co-author, Dr India Ella Dilkes-Hall of the University of Western Australia, highlighted how the ancients tapped into the rainforest’s natural pharmacy of medicinal plants to heal the sick and combat rapid rates of infection in the warm tropics and humid.

There has been an early flowering in the application of botanical resources for anesthetics, antiseptics, and other wound healing treatments, said Dr. Dilkes-Hall.

The study changed our perception of the past, Dr. Dilkes-Hall believes. Archaeologists have previously described Southeast Asia “as a cultural stagnation” and that “there has always been this trope that not much happened there” – these findings now change things, he said.

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