Our prehistoric ancestors from the Stone Age are often written off as dumb and simple-minded cavemen who did nothing but paint cave walls and haul around large stones. Let’s be honest, you’re probably guilty of thinking this too. Despite the stark difference to our modern world, these people were still able to pull off impressive feats, especially those related to the medical field. I mean, can you imagine getting anything done without being in the safety of a sterile environment? In this article, we’ll explore five of the craziest and strangely impressive things that doctors did during the stone age.
1. Using Ants to Stitch Wounds
Stone Age medicine men and women living in India and some parts of Africa had a unique way of sewing up wounds. Unlike the Egyptians who used linen and the Europeans who preferred catgut, the tribal people made use of the powerful mandibles of ants to get the job done. They would place the insect right into the patient’s wound and let the ant bite it. Once the ant latched onto the torn skin, they’d rip its head off with the mandibles to keep the wounds in a tight seal until it healed.
2. Amputation with Anesthetics
Although a bit cruder than what we’re familiar with today, amputation was not at all an uncommon practice during the Stone Age. Proof of this was found on a 7,000-year-old skeleton that was unearthed in southern Paris. The Stone Age skeleton was that of a man who had his arm surgically removed, most likely with a sharp piece of flint, then treated with antiseptic drawn from plants. The skeleton also showed no sign of infection, which means that not only did the patient survived the procedure, but continued to live a long and healthy life after.
It turns out that Stone Age Europeans were practicing acupuncture at least 2,000 years before the Chinese did. Upon further inspection, it is believed that the mummy, Otzi the Iceman, must have been in incredible pain while he was alive due to a family of whipworms that inhabited his body. So his primitive doctor treated him with acupuncture, which was done using stones or bones, then daubed his wounds with burned herbs. Even though it wasn’t a cure, the acupuncture is believed to have given a sense of release.
4. Brain Surgery
Brain surgery isn’t some innovative medical practice that popped up in the last hundred years or so. This is something we’ve been doing for the past 10,000 years to attempt to treat head injuries as well mental disorders and other medical conditions such as epilepsy and migraines. It was a pretty simple procedure: the doctor would drill a hole by scraping it with a flint tool. The rest is a bit graphic but let’s just say it got the job done, since patients often managed to survive, despite the primitiveness of the medical treatment.
5. Dentistry with Drills
Along with brain surgery, the Stone Age people also knew a thing or two about dentistry. In fact, the oldest dental drill ever found is a stunning 9,000-years-old, and was located somewhere in Pakistan. There, it was discovered that an entire tribe of ancient people showed clear signs of having dental work done. The tribe’s dentist would bore into their teeth using a piece of flint whenever they so much as complained of a toothache. This amazing knowledge lasted only an estimated 1,500 years before it was lost to time.
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