Archaeologists In Poland Unearthed The Remains Of An Eighteenth Century Man Who Had A Medical Prosthetic Implant Lodged In His Skull, Marking The First Time A Prosthesis For The Palate Was Ever Found In Europe

Yasonya - - illustrative purposes only

Long before the age of modern medicine, ancient civilizations had to come up with innovative solutions to deal with the challenges of restoring mobility after crippling injuries.

It was a time when prosthetic limbs were fashioned out of materials such as wood, metal, and leather, offering functionality to those who had lost a leg in battle or a hand to disease.

During a research project in Poland, archaeologists uncovered the skeleton of a man from the 18th century. Curiously enough, there was a medical prosthetic implant lodged in his skull.

The artificial body part was made for someone with a cleft palate, which is a birth condition that is characterized by an opening or split in the roof of the mouth. It occurs when the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not fuse together completely during development in the womb.

The discovery was made in the crypts of the St. Francis of Assisi Church in Kraków. The skeleton belonged to a man who died at the age of 50. Anna Drażkowska of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland, led the project. Details of the discovery were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.  

It is the first time that a prosthesis for the palate has ever been found in Europe. Initially, the team of researchers had thought that the object in the man’s skull had been a seal of some sort.

But upon closer examination, they realized it was a prosthesis. It was made up of two parts: a wool pad and a metal plate crafted from copper, silver, and gold.

The prosthesis was meant to separate the man’s oral cavity from the nasal cavity, which likely significantly improved the quality of his life. A cleft palate can cause difficulty with speaking and eating.

“It prevented the passage of food from the oral cavity to the nasal cavity, decreased the risk of infection within the nasopharynx [which connects the back of the nose to the back of the mouth], facilitated breathing, and improved speech,” Marta Kurek, a co-author of the study with the University of Poland, said. “The size of the cleft palate and the dimensions of the prosthesis indicate a good fit of the object. We can, therefore, assume that it fulfilled its role well.”

Yasonya – – illustrative purposes only

Sign up for Chip Chick’s newsletter and get stories like this delivered to your inbox.

1 of 2