Thursday, October 04, 2012

The earliest prostheses were for the big toe

A new study from suggests two Egyptian artificial toes are possibly the world's oldest known prosthetic body parts and predate the bronze and wooden Roman Capua leg, from 300 B.C.E. The Greville Chester toe is currently housed at the British Museum and dates to before before 600 B.C.E. The prosthetic toe is made of cartonnage ( an ancient type of papier maché made with a mixture of linen, animal glue and tinted plaster). The Cairo Toe is made from wood and leather and is kept at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The latter was discovered on a female mummy near Luxor and is thought to date back to between 950 and 710 B.C.E. To help prove the artefacts were toe prostheses two volunteers amupees were fitted with replicas and required to walk in replica Egyptian sandals. Their movements were recorded and measured. Results indicated the prostheses would help walking with no obvious pressure points, suggesting the prostheses were relatively comfortable. Researchers have concluded the false toes were functional cosmoses and not just for funereal purposes. The findings were published in the September issue of the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics.

Footnote The prosthetic toes mayhave been replacements for digits which atrophied due to leprosy (Hansen’s Disease).

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