Wow, 3,000-Year-Old Prosthetic Toe Made From Wood and Leather Found! Would It Still Work Today?

Wow, 3,000-Year-Old Prosthetic Toe Made From Wood and Leather Found! Would It Still Work Today?

Crafted from leather and wood, the ancient Egyptian prosthesis was was adjusted to precisely fit its wearer’s foot

Rank has always had its privileges. For example, 3,000 years ago, the daughter of an important Egyptian priest seems to have been entitled to the finest faux toe money could then buy.

Nearly 2 decades ago, excavation of an ancient burial chamber west of Luxor, Egypt, disclosed the mummy of a woman thought to be the daughter of a high-ranking cleric. Unwrapping the mummy revealed that her right foot was equipped with a flexible artificial toe, superbly crafted from the finest leather and wood.

The fake digit, now labeled the Cairo Toe, dates from between 1069 BC and 664 BC. If it restored natural function, it’s the earliest practical prosthesis ever discovered.

The Cairo Toe shares its secrets

Now researchers at the University of Basil in Switzerland are re-examining the Cairo Toe, using microscopic instruments, x-ray technology, and computer tomography. They have learned that the toe was modified several times, until it precisely matched the dimensions of the woman’s foot. (Her remaining toe bones are remarkably long, and the Cairo Toe itself looks more like a thumb than a toe).

Whether the Cairo Toe enabled its owner to recapture her natural gait and regain lost balance is debatable. But the intricate nature of the prosthesis shows the designer was clearly familiar with human physiology and the complex nature of the foot.

first prosthetics, Prosthetic Toe Made From Wood and Leather

The Cario Toe’s stitching and mixed leather and wooden construction was likely more comfortable than other ancient prosthetics.

Do we need our big toe?

According to a study published in Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, amputation of a big toe generally results in minimal functional disability.

However, “The current absence of a foot or any portion thereof”, is considered significant enough to disqualify a prospective enlistee from service in the US Armed Forces. The big toe carries 40% of the load imposed on all our toes, and, while walking, it is the last part of the foot to push off the ground.

Gives new meaning to the phrase, “she wore it to death”

But perhaps the most interesting discovery is that the Cairo Toe shows high levels of wear, indicating it was much more than a merely cosmetic appliance. Hopefully it was as functional as it was beautiful, making the wearer feel both emotionally and physically more whole.

And isn’t that the most important purpose of a prosthetic, whether 3,000 years ago or today?

Read the full article at: www.smithsonianmag.com

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