Everything we have in the modern-day had to start somewhere. And as we learn more about the ancient world, the origins of certain ideas become clearer. For example, a recently discovered ancient skull revealed a successful ear surgery that took place 5,300 years ago. In fact, this skull reveals our earliest-known ear surgery, ever. And the woman even survived it… At least for some time.
According to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, a skull discovered in 2018 has yielded evidence of two different surgical procedures. The first ear surgery occurred on the right ear. This surgery may have treated an infection or other “alarming” problem. The other ear surgery occurred on the left ear. According to the study, “it is not possible to determine whether both interventions were performed back-to-back or several months, or even years had passed.”
Additionally, the study shares:
It is thus the earliest documented evidence of a surgery on both temporal bones, and, therefore, most likely, the first known radical mastoidectomy in the history of humankind.
The business of looking back into the past always feels like a mind-blowing one. The first-ever anything seems hard to comprehend. But trying to imagine what the first-known surgery would have been like? That’s almost scary. Even without all the gory details. Still, the skull does reveal good news. The surgery took place successfully. So three cheers for ancient man. The Agencia de Noticias para la Difusión de la Ciencia y la Tecnología offers insights into the matter. Dr. Rebeca García, who analyzed the skull, shares that bone growth, and the presence of certain microscopic structures in the skull, revealed the woman survived her ancient surgery for at least a month. No small amount of time 5,300 years ago.
Manuel Rojo-Guerra, an author of the study, adds that this was no mistake. He shares:
This type of intervention, despite its antiquity—about 5,300 years—must have been carried out by authentic specialists or individuals with certain anatomical knowledge and accumulated therapeutic experiences.
Additionally, archeologists found a sheet of flint near the skull that was used to cut bone. The flint also had “been reheated several times to between 300 and 350 degrees.” And researchers believe that the use of this tool was “as an authentic cautery or surgical instrument to carrying out the operation,” according to Rojo-Guerra.
There we have it. A professional, a surgical instrument, and a successfully completed ancient ear surgery. We have to appreciate the work done by our ancestors. Every step and development in medicine brought us closer to the modern-day. Which makes us feel very grateful. For more insights, you can read the full article in the journal Nature.