The young patient survived another six to nine years after the operation
A child who lived on the Indonesian island of Borneo around 31,000 years ago underwent the oldest known surgical operation, an amputation of the lower left leg, researchers say.
One or more hunter-gatherers who performed the operation possessed detailed knowledge of human anatomy and considerable technical skill, enabling the youngster to avoid fatal blood loss and infection, say archaeologist Tim Maloney of Griffith University in Southport, Australia, and colleagues.
Healed bone where the lower leg was amputated indicates that the ancient youth survived for at least six to nine years after surgery before dying at age 19 or 20, the investigators report September 7 in Nature. Since there is no evidence of crushing from an accident or an animal’s bite at the amputation site, the researchers suspect that an unidentified medical problem led to the operation.