What is the Oldest Form of Plastic Surgery?

The term “plastic surgery” may sound very modern to us today, when we typically think of “plastic” as a hard, human-made material used to make everything from the toys our kids play with, to the dishes we store our food in, to the cars we drive. But the term “plastic” in this case comes from the ancient Greek word plastikos, which means to mold or to give form

In fact, plastic surgery itself dates back to ancient times. Let’s take a quick look at the oldest forms of plastic surgery: 

Rhinoplasty, An Ancient Practice

It is believed that Ancient Egyptians practiced a type of simple plastic surgery, mainly focusing on the nose. According to Ramsay Health, rhinoplasty, the act of surgically changing or repairing the nose (aka a “nose job”), is mentioned on a papyrus dating back to 1600 BC. 

A Notable Nose Job 

Around 1200 BC, plastic surgery was sometimes performed on corpses as prep for the afterlife before mummification. Practitioners of the time, for example, reportedly used bone and seeds in the nose of the deceased pharaoh Ramses II so that his very large nose would remain intact and help distinguish him during the afterlife. 

Skin Grafts & More

As early as 800-600 BC, some doctors in India were said to have performed nose jobs, as well as used skin grafts. Later, Roman medical writings from between 100 BC to 5 AD also mention plastic surgery. It was used to improve the appearance and repair ear damage, using skin from other areas of the body to assist with the work. 

Fast Forwarding…

Even from ancient times, humans have needed or wanted to mold and reshape their appearance. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the field of plastic surgery developed rapidly. As the American Society of Plastic Surgeons explains, the mass casualties suffered during World War I and World War II precipitated the field’s advancement, since reconstructive surgeries were frequently needed after wartime injuries.

Today, we can offer so many more procedures and much more sophisticated techniques than the Ancient Egyptians, Indians, and Romans of long ago who focused mainly on rhinoplasty and skin grafts. Still, it’s fascinating to know there’s a history of self-improvement by plastic surgery dating back almost 4,000 years. 

As for the future: plastic and cosmetic surgery will continue to endure, advance, and improve people’s quality of life!  

Modern Care at The Lucas Center

For modern patients who, like their ancient ancestors, are seeking self-improvement and self-confidence, Knoxville’s premier plastic surgeon, Dr. Jay Lucas, is ready to help. Here at The Lucas Center, we’re proud to offer advanced, state-of-the-art technology and techniques (that can improve much more than your nose!) and create real, lasting confidence. Schedule your personalized consultation with Dr. Lucas or give us a call today at (865) 218-6210.

(865) 217-0572