Archaeologists in Indonesia have discovered the remains of a teenager whose discovery could change the course of medical history, buried in a shallow tomb deep in a secluded cave.
According to the study, published in the journal Nature, researchers estimate the body was found at Liang Tebo cave in eastern Kalimantan Borneo state for 31.000 years using radiocarbon dating methods.
The researchers claimed that the lack of a left lower leg was the most surprising feature of the discovery, with evidence that the young person was surgically amputated when he was a teenager or early teen, before dying from an unexplained cause between the ages of 19 and 21.
The otherwise remarkably intact skeleton was discovered by Australian and Indonesian archaeologists in 2020. They argue that amputation, the oldest example in the archaeological record, demonstrates remarkable surgical skill and challenges our perception of the complexity of Stone Age humans.
According to Maxime Aubert, professor at the Center for Social and Cultural Studies at Griffith University in Queensland, "it's important because it significantly withdraws our species' knowledge of surgery and sophisticated medicine."
A precise, beveled cut was used to deliberately remove the foot and lower leg.
According to Aubert, they needed to be extremely knowledgeable about human anatomy, how to stop blood flow, anesthesia and antisepsis – all of which has only recently come to be considered standard practice.
Prior to the advent of agriculture and stable settlements in the previous 10.000 years, experts believed that humanity lacked the knowledge to perform complex treatments such as amputation.
Prior to this discovery, the report noted, the oldest amputee was an elderly farmer in what is now France, who had his left forearm amputated just above the elbow 7000 years ago.
Hand molds were found in the cave where the amputee skeleton was found.
The Western medical standard for surgical amputation emerged 100 years ago. According to the research, without advances such as antibiotics, most people would have died at the time of amputation.
Until very recently in human history, blood loss, shock and subsequent infection were the main reasons why amputations became fatal, said Tim Maloney, a researcher at Griffith University and one of the study's co-authors.
According to the study, the person whose left leg was amputated when he was small lived for six to nine years after the procedure.
The bones showed no signs of infection and new bone growth developed at the site of the rupture, which takes time. In addition, the development of the amputee bones stopped and remained in juvenile size, but the rest of the skeleton reached adult size.
According to the study, 31.000 years ago there was likely a surgeon or team of surgeons performing the procedure with blades and scalpels made of stone. To expose vessels and nerves, they must have needed a thorough understanding of anatomy and the muscular and vascular systems.
Following amputation, considerable nursing and care was required, and frequent cleaning and disinfection of the wound was required.
What Maloney found most surprising was that it was real, tangible archaeological evidence of a high level of social care.
The person would need the constant help and care of his group to survive for years in a mountainous region with an amputated limb.
Charlotte Roberts, professor emeritus in the Department of Archeology at Durham University in the United Kingdom, said in a commentary included in the report, “This young man is estimated to have survived treatment and lived for many years.
Roberts agrees with the conclusion that the leg was deliberately amputated because an accidental wound would not have a smooth, curved cut. According to Roberts, an archaeologist who was first trained in nursing, the fact that the person survived for years after the amputation and was buried with respect precludes the possibility of having their foot amputated as punishment.
Australian researchers speculated that these hunter-gatherers may have been familiar with medicinal plants such as antiseptics that thrive in the forests of Borneo.
Dating a tooth, radioactive decay of uranium isotopes, chemical elements found in tooth enamel, and radiocarbon dating of charcoal residues in sediment layers above, below and below the skeleton were determined.
The body was placed in a bent, fetal posture, and a large ball of ocher, a mineral pigment used in Stone Age cave painting, was placed atop the tomb. It is also the oldest known intentional burial on the islands of Southeast Asia.
The skeleton was found at Liang Tebo, a sizable limestone cave with human-made stencils on its walls, in a remote, hilly region that can only be reached by boat at certain times of the year. This area has emerged as an attractive location for paleoanthropology.
The world's oldest figurative rock art has been discovered in caves elsewhere in Indonesia, as well as extinct human species such as tiny Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis discovered on islands in the same region.
According to Aubert, on the first successful major sea voyage, humanity left this region by boat to cross the South Asian Island and reach the continents of Papua and Australia. Now that we know they had substantial medical insight, they were also successful artists.
“We found this 31.000-year-old prehistoric amputee at Liang Tebo about a meter below the surface, and we know we have another 3-4 meters of sediment to dig before bedrock,” he continued.
Alert over the spread of Covid-19 ended the excavation in 2020, and Australian archaeologists hastily rushed home to avoid more than two years of border closure. We will continue to inform you about the studies.
📩 09/09/2022 14:37