Analysis of the remains of an elderly woman buried at the Dolmen of El Pendón, in northern Spain, has identified the earliest known evidence of successful ear surgery, 5,300 years ago.
The skull was discovered by researchers from the University of Valladolid during excavations of the megalithic monument, which was used as an ossuary in the 4th millennium BC, containing the remains of over 100 individuals.
Among the remains was the skull of an individual who had undergone surgery to eliminate infections of the middle ear in both her left and right ears.
Given the pre-metallurgical context of the burial, this double mastoidectomy must have been carried out using flint tools and would have been incredibly painful. However, her ear bones indicate that the pathological bone was successfully removed, and she survived the operation.
The research has been published in Scientific Reports (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-06223-6).