Offbeat: oldest evidence of amputation: Simple Stone Age man discovered

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in the western world Amputations have only been a standard repertoire for a short time. The knowledge of how the operating room succeeds has had a much longer, as a bone find on Borneo shows.

  Ältester Nachweis von Amputation: Einfüßiger Steinzeitmensch entdeckt © Tim Maloney/ dpa

A skeleton found on Borneo with only one foot is the oldest evidence of amputation. The prehistoric surgeon s) had already carried out the operation about 31,000 years ago with a lot of medical expertise, scientists write in the journal "Nature" . So far, the forearm surgery of a farmer in France has been the earliest evidence around 7000 years ago.

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"The new find on Borneo shows that people have already been able to lose injured or affected limbs long before they had started agriculture and have become sedentary," explains co-student manager Maxim Aubert from Australian Griffith University.

To determine the age of the skeleton, the researchers had dated coal pieces found near the grave with the radiocarbon method. In addition, the age of a molar was also determined with another technique.

amputation in childhood

The skeleton was found in the Liang Tebo limestone cave in the Indonesian part of Borneo. The cave consists of three chambers, is about 160 square meters in size and partly painted with rock art. During excavations in 2020, the fairly complete skeleton of around 20 -year -old people (Homo sapiens) had been discovered. According to the researchers, it is not possible to say whether it is a woman or a man.

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In the excavations, they found that the skeleton lacks the left foot. The experts assume that the Stone Age man was removed about a third of the left leg during an operation. The way in which the shin and fibula is severed do not indicate an accident or an animal attack.

Also a punishment is considered unlikely, among other things, because after the operation, people were apparently well cared for and lived for at least six years. Unusual bone growth as a result of a healing process on the separated bones allows the conclusion that the amputation was already in childhood.

The experts emphasize that amputations in the western world have only been a standard repertoire of surgeons for about a hundred years. Before that, the chances of survival were considered very low, among other things because antibiotics were missing to avoid infections.

sedative in use?

The Stone Age Surgeon or the Anatomy of the limbs, muscles and vascular system of the human being must have known themselves very well, according to the study. Because they apparently operated without fatal blood loss and without the patient of the infection later. It was probably necessary to clean and disinfect the amputation wound regularly, possibly with local medicinal plants.

"It was a big surprise that this early hunter survived a very serious and life-threatening surgery in childhood," says co-author Melandri Vlok from the University of Sydney. “His wound healed and formed a leg stump. And then this person lived in mountainous terrain with limited mobility for years. This suggests a high degree of maintenance by the community. ”

The knowledge necessary for the procedure was probably created over a long period of time by attempt and errors and passed on for generations, the experts report.

is unclear why the leg had to be removed. Charlotte Ann Roberts from Durham University writes in a commentary on the study. The experts assume a sharp object.

"Another exciting question is whether the child got pain relievers for the operation, for example plant -based sedative," writes Roberts.

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