Archaeological remains. (Photo: via The Associated Press)
He was a child when a part of his left leg had to be amputated, an operation which he won and reached his youth. A case that would not be strange today, but it happened 31,000 years ago and is the earliest evidence of this type of process.
Skeletal remains found in Borneo’s Liang Tebo cave by a team of Australian and Indonesian archaeologists, as published in Nature, attest to the fact that it would be the first known evidence of a complex medical act in the Stone Age and that it was was an expert of his time.
So far, the oldest evidence of amputation surgery dates back 7,000 years to the remains of a Stone Age farmer in France who was missing his left forearm.
The prevailing theory is that the development of medicine coincided with the beginning of sedentary agricultural societies with the Neolithic Revolution about 10,000 years ago, however, the inhabitants of Liang Tebo in the tropical jungle of the Indonesian part of Borneo were much earlier hunter-gatherers. – collectors.
According to Timothy Maloney of Griffith University in Australia and one of the lead researchers, “The discovery of a 31,000-year-old crippled man in Borneo has important implications for our understanding of the history of medicine.”
The study, carried out with the Indonesian Center for Archaeology, Language and History and the University of Sydney, in 2000, is based on the discovery of a skeleton, which was about 19 or 20 years old at the time of death, lacking it. feet. Left, part of the tibia and fibula.
The analysis confirmed that the bone growth related to the treatment, in addition, the smaller size of the tibia and fibula compared to the healthy leg, suggests that this is a childhood injury.
“He survived with impaired mobility and lived for six to nine years, in one of the oldest known artist communities in the mountainous tropical forests of Borneo,” he said, an area where 40,000-year-old cave paintings have been found. , They said. Maloney at a virtual press conference.
The scars on the bones are “not consistent” with non-surgical amputations. The study noted that trauma “doesn’t result in a clean oblique cut”, and that accidents or animal attacks usually result in “crushed and bruised fractures”.
For the expert, “one of the great implications” is that the community had “the advanced medical knowledge to amputate a child’s leg and survive”, in a very difficult time and place, at the end of an ice age, Where lithic industry tools with sharps already existed.
The person responsible or responsible for the intervention must have a detailed knowledge of the anatomy of the organ and know how to handle the nerves, nerves, and muscles, in addition to avoiding fatal blood loss and infection, “understanding the need for limb removal.” In addition” to their existence “, commented the expert.
According to Maloney, the boy was “a valuable component of his community” and would not have been able to move forward without his help after amputation, when he needed care such as cleaning and disinfecting the wound so that it could heal. Stump and later live with less mobility.
The bones showed no evidence of signs of an infection that may have left permanent scars on them, which is the most common complication of an open wound without antimicrobial treatment, especially in the hot, humid climate of the region.
Researchers believe that available botanical resources with medicinal properties to prevent infection, anesthetics and painkillers were probably used in child care.
The knowledge of anatomy, physiology and surgical procedures performed by that community has been developed over a long period of time through trial and error and passed on from generation to generation by oral transmission, the study said.
The remains of the young amputee were found in good preservation, with 75% of the bones, including all teeth, present in the burial.
The later date of death to 31,000 years ago was “in a process that “proved quite challenging”, said Renaud Joannes-Boeau of Southern Cross University (Australia), who acted by measuring the radiation received from the burial. Since then tooth enamel.
Whether Liang Tebo’s discovery is just the first evidence that the complexity of hunter-gatherer medical cultures was much more widespread in this early period of human prehistory, Maloney said, remains to be seen.
The other possibility is that by 31,000 years ago the communities living in Borneo – part of the Eurasian supercontinent Sunda – had acquired an unusually advanced degree in the region.