Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Egyptian toe tests show they're likely to be the world's oldest prosthetics

Date:
October 2, 2012
Source:
University of Manchester
Summary:
The results of scientific tests using replicas of two ancient Egyptian artificial toes, including one that was found on the foot of a mummy, suggest that they're likely to be the world's first prosthetic body parts.

Volunteer wearing a replica of the cartonage big tow.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Manchester

The results of scientific tests using replicas of two ancient Egyptian artificial toes, including one that was found on the foot of a mummy, suggest that they're likely to be the world's first prosthetic body parts.

Related Articles


The University of Manchester researcher Dr Jacky Finch wanted to find out if a three part wood and leather toe dating from between 950 to 710 BC found on a female mummy buried near Luxor in Egypt, and the Greville Chester artificial toe from before 600 BC and made of cartonnage (a sort of papier machι mixture made using linen, glue and plaster), could be used as practical tools to help their owners to walk. Both display significant signs of wear and their design features also suggest they may have been more than cosmetic additions.

Dr Finch says: "Several experts have examined these objects and had suggested that they were the earliest prosthetic devices in existence. There are many instances of the ancient Egyptians creating false body parts for burial but the wear plus their design both suggest they were used by people to help them to walk. To try to prove this has been a complex and challenging process involving experts in not only Egyptian burial practices but also in prosthetic design and in computerized gait assessment."

Dr Finch, who is based in the Faculty of Life Sciences' KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, recruited two volunteers who were both missing their right big toe. Design replicas of the ancient toes were made to fit each volunteer along with replica leather ancient Egyptian style sandals.

The tests were carried out at the Gait Laboratory at Salford University's Centre for Rehabilitation and Human Performance Research. Each volunteer was asked to walk on a 10 metre walkway bare foot, in their own shoes and wearing the replicas with and without the sandals. Their movement was tracked using 10 special cameras and the pressure of their footsteps was measured using a special mat. The 10 best walking trials were recorded for each foot, using their normal left foot as the control.

It was surprising how well both volunteers were able to walk using these devices although one volunteer performed much better than the other. The camera footage revealed that when wearing the sandals with the cartonnage replica, one of the volunteers achieved 87% of the flexion achieved by their normal left toe. The three part wood and leather design producing nearly 78%. Interestingly the ability to push off using the prosthetic toe was not as good when this volunteer wasn't wearing the sandals. The second volunteer was still able to produce between 60-63% flexion wearing the replicas with or without the sandals.

When wearing the replicas the pressure measurements showed that for both volunteers there were no overly high pressure points. This indicated that the false toes were not causing any undue discomfort or possible tissue damage. However, when the volunteers wore just the replica sandals without the false toes the pressure being applied under the foot rose sharply.

Dr Finch says: "The pressure data tells us that it would have been very difficult for an ancient Egyptian missing a big toe to walk normally wearing traditional sandals. They could of course remained bare foot or perhaps have worn some sort of sock or boot over the false toe, but our research suggests that wearing these false toes made walking in a sandal more comfortable."

Alongside the test data Dr Finch also asked her volunteers to fill in a questionnaire about how they felt when doing the trials in the gait laboratory. Despite it having performed well the comfort scores for the cartonnage replica were disappointing although it was felt to be an excellent cosmetic replacement. Describing the performance of the three part wooden and leather toe both volunteers found this one to be extremely comfortable, scoring it highly, one volunteer commenting that with time he could get used to walking in it.

Assessing the volunteers' experience Dr Finch said: "It was very encouraging that both volunteers were able to walk wearing the replicas. Now that we have the gait analysis data and volunteer feedback alongside the obvious signs of wear we can provide a more convincing argument that the original artefacts had some intended prosthetic function.

The findings from this study, which have been published in the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, means the earliest known prosthetic is now more likely to come from ancient Egypt. The three part example pre-dates by some 400 years what is currently thought to be the oldest, although untested, prosthetic device. This is a bronze and wooden leg that was found in a Roman burial in Capua, Southern Italy. That has been dated to 300 BC although only a replica now remains as the original was destroyed in a bombing raid over London during the war.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Manchester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jacqueline Louise Finch, Glyn Harvey Heath, Ann Rosalie David, Jai Kulkarni. Biomechanical Assessment of Two Artificial Big Toe Restorations From Ancient Egypt and Their Significance to the History of Prosthetics. JPO Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, 2012; 24 (4): 181 DOI: 10.1097/JPO.0b013e31826f4652

Cite This Page:

University of Manchester. "Egyptian toe tests show they're likely to be the world's oldest prosthetics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121002101534.htm>.
University of Manchester. (2012, October 2). Egyptian toe tests show they're likely to be the world's oldest prosthetics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121002101534.htm
University of Manchester. "Egyptian toe tests show they're likely to be the world's oldest prosthetics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121002101534.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) — Hundreds of archeological jewels in and around the town of 30,000 people prompt geologists and archeologists to call the Erfoud area "the largest open air fossil museum in the world". Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — A 45,000-year-old thighbone is showing when humans and neanderthals may have first interbred and revealing details about our origins. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins