Researchers from the University of Valladolid in Spain and the Spanish National Research Council in Italy published an article in Scientific Reports. They found evidence of the earliest human ear surgery, in the region of Burgos, in a place most likely used by ancient people as a burial site.
Previous research has shown that the site was used for this burial for 800 years between 3800 and 3000 BC.
Scientists analyzed a skull found in Burgos and found that it bore the marks of a skull surgery meant to treat an ear disease. Not only were the doctors able to perform the operation – the woman who underwent the operation was able to survive it – even if she lived after that for only a few months.
The skull of a woman between the ages of 35 and 50 has been dated to 5,300 years ago, making it the earliest example of ear surgery. In modern science, this procedure is called a mastoidectomy. It is performed to clean a suspected infected area. Failure to manage the problem can cause many people to become deaf or have serious infections that can lead to death.
A flint tool was also found on the same grave of the patient. It showed signs of having been heated several times, which means it may have been used as a cauterizing tool to stop bleeding.
In the woman’s skull, scientists found signs of bone growth in the holes, suggesting that the operation may have been successful, albeit not for long.