The first surgical amputation was done 31,000 years ago

Recreation of the boy with the amputated foot in the Liang Tebo cave, in Borneo. / JG

Australian and Indonesian archaeologists describe the intervention thanks to the discovery of bone remains in a cave in Borneo


The oldest surgery known to date happened 31,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. The 'patient' was a boy who had to have part of his left leg amputated in an operation that he survived and allowed him to live for a few more years, into youth.

A team of Australian and Indonesian archaeologists is behind this investigation, carried out thanks to the discovery of bone remains found in a cave in the tropical jungle of Borneo. The study published by 'Nature' would be the first known evidence of a complex medical act carried out by an expert in the Stone Age.

Until now, the oldest evidence of amputation surgery dates back 7,000 years, to the remains of a Stone Age farmer in present-day France who was missing his left forearm, which was removed and then partially healed.

The study by Griffith University (Australia) together with the Indonesian Center for Archaeology, Language and History and the University of Sydney starts from the discovery in 2020 of a skeleton, about 19 or 20 years old at the time of death. The leg bone shows a clean cut, although it is unknown what type of sharp tool was used, but it seems that those who did it must have had knowledge to avoid blood loss and infection.

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