sign in a cave in Laos

8 September 2022

Stone Age limb amputation from Kalimantan cave

  On 7 Sept 2022 news in the media about a Stone Age limb amputation from a cave in Kalimantan, Borneo.

Sky News "Stone Age human skeleton in Borneo provides evidence of earliest known surgical limb amputation"

The article says this is the earliest known limb amputation found on a human skeleton. The foot was found to have been surgically removed when the patient was a child. The patient was known to be alive at the time and recovered.  This happened about 31,000 years ago. The skeleton is of a young person. It was found in Liang Tebo cave in East Kalimantan. This area also has some of the world's oldest known rock art.

The people at that time would have been foragers. It looks like they had medical knowledge including how to prevent infections. The surgeon had knowledge of anatomy and was able to prevent blood loss and serious infection. The wound healed and the child is thought to have lived another 6 to 9 years before dying and being buried in the cave. 

Until now, the oldest known complex operation was carried out on a Neolithic farmer from France about 7,000 years ago. His left forearm was surgically removed and then partially healed.

The research article was published in Nature on 7 Sept, "Surgical amputation of a limb 31,000 years ago in Borneo"

And a BBC report "Earliest evidence of amputation found in Indonesia cave".