5,300-year-old skull bears traces of ancient ear surgery

5,300-year-old skull bears traces of ancient ear surgery

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In 2016, archaeologists excavated the El Pendon dolmen and found more than 100 human remains there. The excavation site is located in the Spanish province of Burgos and is an extensive single-chamber, multi-stage tomb. It has been used in funeral rituals as far back as the fourth millennium BC. In 2018, while examining the remains, archaeologists discovered a 5,300-year-old skull that holds evidence of the earliest ear surgery in human history.

5,300-year-old skull bears traces of ancient ear surgery 1

It belonged to a woman between the ages of 35 and 50. Notable was the presence of two perforations on each side of the skull around the ear. This indicates a surgical operation mastoidectomy – trepanation of the mastoid process of the inner ear to remove pus. Seven cuts near the left ear canal showed that they were made by a qualified specialist.

5,300-year-old skull bears traces of ancient ear surgery 2

The presence of bone neoplasms around the holes indicates that the patient underwent a painful operation, which was performed with a primitive stone or flint instrument. The ear pain she hoped to relieve might have been minor compared to the procedure itself. The researchers found a flint blade with traces of heating in the tomb – it was probably used to cauterize the bone or drill through it.

5,300-year-old skull bears traces of ancient ear surgery 3

The procedure bears a striking resemblance to modern ear surgeries, which are performed to clear the area of ​​the inner ear of infection. Failure can result in deafness or death. Evidence from the earliest ear surgery in history could form the basis for further discoveries in this area.

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