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Updated February 21st, 2022 at 20:58 IST

Archaeologists may have found proof of earliest ear surgery in 5,300 yr old skull: Report

Found in the Dolmen de El Pendon of Spain's Burgos, the skull is estimated to date back to 5,300 years ago and is said to have belonged to a woman.

Harsh Vardhan
ear surgery
Image: Unsplash | Image:self
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In a historic finding, archaeologists have discovered a skull carrying the earliest evidence of otologic (middle ear) surgery to date. Found in the Dolmen de El Pendon of Spain's Burgos, the skull is estimated to date back to 5,300 years ago and is said to have belonged to a woman. Although the skull was discovered in 2016 with 100 others by the University of Valladolid researchers, it is now that the aforementioned findings have surfaced. 

What convinced the researchers about the surgery?

According to the findings, which have been published in the journal Scientific Reports, the archaeologists were convinced about the fossil carrying evidence of surgery because of two clues. The researchers noted bilateral perforations on both mastoid bones of the skull, which are located right behind the ear. According to the experts, these hinted towards mastoidectomy which was done to relieve the patient from pain. Besides, the presence of cut marks at the anterior edge around the left ear also convinced the researchers about them resulting from ear surgery.

"The results of this paper demonstrate the survival of the individual to both interventions. Given the chronology of this dolmen, this find would be the earliest surgical ear intervention in the history of mankind", the experts concluded in their study. As for the skull itself, the discoverers believe that it belonged to a woman close to old age. They arrived at the conclusion by deducing the loss of all the teeth in the upper jaw long before death. "This statement is based on the general good oral health of the community whose remains are deposited in the dolmen. Therefore, the loss of all teeth in life points to elderly individuals", the experts wrote in their study. 

As already mentioned, the findings are the earliest known evidence of ear surgery, which the experts suspect was carried out using instruments like blades, geometric microliths, and arrowheads. Moreover, they also noted that middle ear infections were fairly common in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, evidence of which has already been documented. What's more, is that the evidence of such infections is more in the Neolithic period onwards as compared to the Palaeolithic period. 

Image: Unsplash

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Published February 21st, 2022 at 20:58 IST

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