The young adult’s 31,000-year-old skeleton was found in an Indonesian cave with a portion of its left leg and foot missing, making it the oldest known case of amputation. Scientists claim that the “patient” had their leg amputated when they were still very young and had lived with their leg after that for many years.
According to the study, the ancient surgery could demonstrate that humans were developing new medical techniques much earlier than previously believed. According to Tim Maloney, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Australia and the study’s principal investigator, researchers discovered the grave while exploring a cave in Borneo, an area of the rainforest known for having some of the oldest rock art in the world.
He explained that although most of the skeleton was present, it was missing its left foot and the lower portion of its left leg. The foot bones were carefully removed, and the researchers determined after examining the remains that they were not missing from the grave or lost in an accident. According to Maloney, the remaining leg bone displayed a clean, slanted cut that had fully healed. No infections were visible, which would be expected if a crocodile or another animal had bit off the child’s leg. Furthermore, there were no indications of a crushing fracture, which would have been anticipated if the leg had been amputated as a result of an accident.
According to researchers, the person appears to have survived for an additional six to nine years after losing the limb before passing away as a young adult from an undisclosed cause. This demonstrates that prehistoric foragers had a basic understanding of medicine and could perform the surgery without risking fatal blood loss or infection. Researchers speculate that a sharp stone tool may have been used to make the cut, and they point out that some of the abundant local plant life has medicinal properties. They don’t know what kind of tool was used to amputate the limb or how infection was prevented.
Additionally, because an amputee would not have been able to easily survive the difficult terrain, the community would have been responsible for caring for the child for years after the incident. Before this discovery, the earliest case of an amputation involved a French farmer who had a portion of his forearm amputated 7,000 years ago. The authors of the study contend that conventional wisdom held that sophisticated medical practices first appeared as humans entered agricultural societies around 10,000 years ago.