A Medieval Man Used a Knife as a Prosthetic Limb
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- October 6, 2022 at 10:14 am #6792thumbtakKeymaster
The DIY prosthetic (attached with his teeth) let him live a surprising long life.
Sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries, in the Longobard necropolis of Povegliano Veronese in Veneto, Northern Italy, a medieval man got his arm amputated in a single blow — maybe it was during combat, maybe it was surgical removed, or chopped off as a judicial punishment. In any case: after the amputation, he attached a knife to the stump with a cap, buckle, and leather straps, using his teeth. Not only did he survive the amputation and DIY prosthetic attachment, but he lived on for a very long time.
The skeleton, dubbed T US 380, was recovered during an excavation in 1996. New research published in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences analyzed his background. “This Longobard male shows a remarkable survival after a forelimb amputation during pre-antibiotic era,” researchers explained. “Not only did he adjust very well to his condition, he did so with the use of a culturally-derived device, along with considerable community support. Most likely, he had a prosthesis that was used to protect the stump.”
While other male skeletons at the site were buried with their arms at their sites, the knife-man had his right arm placed across his torso, with the knife blade with the butt aligned with his amputated wrist. Researchers found bony healing tissue around the ends of his bones (suggesting the wear of biomechanics force), the knife, a cap on the stump, and a buckle with decomposed material around it, likely leather. The skeleton’s teeth showed signs of wear, which researchers believe points to their use in the prosthetic attachment.
The amputation and prosthetic is an impressive feat in a time without sterilization and antibiotics. Researchers speculate that the Longobard community had community-level support for intensive care and healing, and figured out a way to prevent blood loss. “The survival of this Longobard male testifies to community care, family compassion and a high value given to human life,” researchers concluded.
There’s not enough evidence to tell how exactly the man used the knife — perhaps it was decorative, a form of self defense, or used in his daily routines, manipulating and slicing up food and objects.
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