Researchers have suspected two Egyptian artificial toes are the world’s oldest known prosthetic body parts. A new study suggests that is the case: Volunteers without a big toe showed the prosthetics would have made walking around in ancient Egyptian sandals much easier, suggesting they were not just used in burial or in some other non-practical way.
One of the artifacts in question is the Greville Chester toe, now in the British Museum. It dates back before 600 B.C. and is made of cartonnage, an ancient type of papier maché made with a mixture of linen, animal glue and tinted plaster. The other is the wood and leather Cairo toe at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which was found on a female mummy near Luxor and is thought to date back to between 950 and 710 B.C.
If the parts were indeed used to help ancient Egyptians missing a big toe walk normally, they would be the earliest known practical prostheses — older than the bronze and wooden Roman Capua leg, which dates back to 300 B.C.
"Several experts have examined these objects and had suggested that they were the earliest prosthetic devices in existence," University of Manchester researcher Jacky Finch, who led the study, said in a statement. "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 help prove this claim, Finch recruited two volunteers who were both missing their right big toe and outfitted them with replicas of the ancient fake toes and replica Egyptian sandals. The volunteers then walked 33 feet (10 meters) barefoot, with shoes on and then with the replica toes both with and without sandals. Finch recorded their movements and measured the pressure of their footsteps with a special mat.
A volunteer in the study wears a replica of an ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe with imitation Egyptian sandals.
The fake toes allowed one of the volunteers up to 87 percent of the flexion of the intact left toe when wearing the replicas with the sandals. But this volunteer’s ability to push off the ground was diminished without the sandals. Meanwhile, the second volunteer got between 60 and 63 percent flexion wearing the replicas with and without the sandals, according to a statement from the University of Manchester.
The false toes also did not cause any high-pressure points for the two volunteers, suggesting the prosthetics were relatively comfortable. But wearing the sandals without the artificial toes caused pressure under the foot to rise sharply, the researchers said.
"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," Finch said in a statement, adding that her research suggests these false toes made walking in a sandal more comfortable.
Finch’s work was summarized in February 2011 in the journal the Lancet, though at the time the actual data hadn’t been verified and so wasn’t released. The new publication, in the September issue of the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, includes the data from the tests and gives a much more detailed analysis of the prosthetic toes.
The ancient Egyptians often restored artificial body parts to corpses, which means what might appear to be useful prosthetics actually were not. "The theology of Osiris, the god of the dead, stated that the body, in order to be effective during the afterlife, should be complete," Finch explained. "Osiris himself, according to myth, was cut up and his body parts scattered and later reunited."
Scientists have found a variety of artificial body parts restored on mummies, including feet, legs, noses, ears—and even penises. "You were still able to procreate in the afterlife," Finch told LiveScience.
"This series, "A Futuristic Look at Ancient Lenses: A Symposium on Ancient Egypt" focuses on topics and discussions from Ancient Egypt, and involved scholars from across the Eastern Illinois University Campus. In this video, Dr. Kip McGilliard discusses medicine in Ancient Egypt."
Philosophy and Practice of Medicine in Ancient Egypt
Fanning the Flames of Another Black Church Arson Hoax 2015-07-02 0:57
America is still reeling from the horrific Charleston, S.C., massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that claimed the lives of nine innocent people.
The last thing the community and our country need are hysterical journalists compounding the pain with inflammatory reporting on an unsubstantiated “epidemic” of black church arsons.
On Monday, a Baltimore Sun lead editorial decried “a series of mysterious ...
Cold War Redux: Do you want to fight in World War Three? 2015-07-02 0:04
The rhetoric coming of Washington is pushing us dangerously close to a world changing scenario.
In the following episode of CrossTalk, Peter Lavelle discusses the way Russia and Putin are being framed by Western governments and mainstream media with guests including Chris Hedges. The dangers of ignoring historical context when reporting ‘news’ is examined, along with the pure ‘imperial hubris’ of ...
Survey Says: 35 Percent of Americans Would Expatriate 2015-07-02 0:14 ï»¿
As the Fourth of July weekend looms and Americans prep their grills and ready their fireworks, some citizens are packing their bags.
A recent online poll of more than 2,000 adults by TransferWise, a peer-to-peer money transfer service based in the United Kingdom, revealed that 35 percent of American-born residents and emigrants would considering leaving the United States to live in ...
Greek crisis deepens as loan repayment deadline passes 2015-07-01 23:19
Greece's midnight deadline passed Tuesday for repaying $1.8 billion to the International Monetary Fund and other international creditors, deepening a financial crisis that threatens the Mediterranean nation's membership in the European Union.
Despite an eleventh-hour effort by Greek lawmakers Tuesday to secure a new two-year debt deal before the deadline, European finance ministers reviewing Greece's proposal concluded their conference call without ...
Black Suspect Arrested After Racist Message Discovered Outside Predominately Black Church 2015-07-01 22:46
A Colorado Springs man was arrested after police believe he left racist messages outside a church.
Vincent Broughton, 44, who is black, is facing charges for committed a bias-motivated crime and disorderly conduct.
The signs were posted outside the New Covenant church that is predominately attended by African Americans. One sign references the KKK. Another reads, â€œBlack men beware, you are the ...