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 world's first limb amputation

A skeleton that has undergone the world’s first limb amputationTim Maloney, Griffith University

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

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

  • It provides a fascinating insight into the medical capabilities of people in the Stone Age.

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

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

Due to the precision with which the bones were cut, they were surgically amputated.

Examination of the skeleton buried in a cave revealed that they lived six to nine years after surgery.

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

The researchers explain that the findings show that foraging groups in tropical Asia had developed advanced medical knowledge, including surgery and aftercare, many thousands of years before originally thought. Previously, the earliest 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, “The surrounding tissue, including veins, blood vessels and nerves, was exposed and negotiated in such a way that this individual could not only survive, but also continue to live with altered mobility.”

They explained that intensive postoperative patient care, including temperature regulation, bathing, wound care and disinfection, would have been vital for the patient.

“It was a huge surprise that this longtime collector survived a serious and life-threatening childhood surgery, the wound healed and formed a stump, and then lived for years in mountainous terrain with altered mobility – indicating a high degree of community care,” said co-author Dr Melandri Vlok, a paleopathologist from the University of Sydney, in a press release.

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

There was an early boom in the use of botanicals for anesthetics, antiseptics and other wound healing treatments, said Dr. Dilkes-Hall.

The study changed our perception of the past, says 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” — these findings are now changing that, she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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