An Austrian bioarchaeologist has examined the bones of a medieval man who apparently had a prosthetic device for his missing leg and ankle. The examination hopes to provide clues to the history of amputation.

Michaela Binder of the Austrian Archaeological Institute studied the bones of the middle-aged man who had been buried in an exclusive area near a church. The burial ground seemed to have been for high-ranking people, reports Archaeology, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Though the device had deteriorated over the centuries, archaeologists found an iron ring, evidently used to keep the device stable, during the digging. Stains on the leg bones indicated that the man was buried with leather pieces that had apparently been used to attach the device to the leg.

According to Binder, the loss of a foot, which seemed to have cut through the bones, would have damaged many blood vessels and resulted in a lot of bleeding. However, there were no marks of sawing, indicating that the wound had healed.

The study showed that the left leg of the man must have been immobilised for some time. Binder came to this conclusion based on the difference in the bone density of the legs of the man.

Another interesting finding from the examination of the bones is that the man was a frequent horse rider, and he possibly had a riding accident, necessitating the amputation.

The bones were found in the Karawanken foothills at Hemmaberg in southern Austria – the site of hundreds of skeletons found since 1978, reports Atlas Obscura. The latest evidence suggests that prostheses have been used by human beings for thousands of years. The oldest prostheses found known so far was recovered from a Roman grave in Italy. It was of a lower leg and dates back to 300 B.C. Though it was dug out in the 19th century, it no longer exists, having unfortunately been destroyed during a World War II bombing.