A skeleton discovered in the Indonesian part of Borneo shows signs of sophisticated amputation surgery performed 31,000 years ago. That’s 20,000 years earlier than we had evidence of before. A person of unknown sex died at around 19 or 20 years of age, and was missing a foot from surgical amputation.
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The lower third of the person’s leg was missing, and the tibia and fibula — the bones between the knee and ankle — ended in a clean cut. This level of precision indicates that the limb was not lost in an accident or an animal attack. The bones lacked the type of mark typically left by an infection, suggesting that the wound had been cleaned and protected from contamination. Furthermore, the small size of the left tibia and fibula compared with the right ones and the healing of the bones show that the amputation occurred during childhood and at least six to nine years before death.
So the residents of Borneo at the time were not only skilled in surgery, with its accompanying pain and bleeding, but were able to prevent infection afterward and then support a young person with a missing foot. Add this to the growing body of discoveries that tell us our conventional image of cave people as “primitive” is completely wrong. Read more about this discovery at Nature. -via Damn Interesting
(Image credit: T. R. Maloney et al./Nature)