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 Capula 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.
Writing in the Lancet, Dr Finch said: "To be classed as true prosthetic devices any replacement must satisfy several criteria. The material must withstand bodily forces so that it does not snap or crack with use. Proportion is important and the appearance must be sufficiently lifelike as to be acceptable to both the wearer and those around them. The stump must also be kept clean, so it must be easy to take on and off. But most importantly it must assist walking.
She continued: "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 perfor
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University of Manchester