Once again we have been shown the intelligence and ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians, their level of sophistication at such an early period in human history is astounding – Deskarati
Two artificial big toes – one found attached to the foot of an ancient Egyptian mummy – may have been the world’s earliest functional prosthetic body parts, says the scientist who tested replicas on volunteers.
University of Manchester researcher, Dr Jacky Finch, has shown that a three-part wood and leather artefact housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, along with a second one, the Greville Chester artificial toe on display in the British Museum, not only looked the part but also helped their toeless owners walk like Egyptians.
The toes date from before 600BC, predating what was hitherto thought to be the earliest known practical prosthesis – the Roman Capua Leg – by several hundred years.
Dr Finch, who is based in the University of Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, recruited two volunteers whose right big toe had been lost in order to test exact replicas of the artificial toes in the Gait Laboratory at Salford University’s Centre for Rehabilitation and Human Performance Research.
She said “The big toe is thought to carry some 40% of the bodyweight and is responsible for forward propulsion, although those without it can adapt well. To accurately determine any level of function requires the application of gait analysis techniques involving integrated cameras and pressure devices placed along a walkway.”
The volunteers were asked to wear the toes with replica Egyptian sandals and, while neither design was expected to perform exactly like a real big toe, one of the volunteers was able to walk extremely well with both artificial toes. No significant elevation in pressure under the foot was recorded for either toe, although both volunteers said they found the Cairo toe particularly comfortable.