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World’s Oldest Prosthetic Device Uncovered

Sure people have uncovered mummies in the past, but a mummy with a prosthetic wooden toe device?

English: Cropped version of image of a prosthetic toe from ancient Egypt, now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The big toe is carved from wood and is attached to the foot by a sewn leather wrapping. Original text: “An artificial toe from the Third Intermediate Period. Examination of the prosthesis showed that it was worn by the owner in life.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who would have known that world’s first prosthetic device would have been a large toe carved from wood? Perhaps the people who lived in that era would have had a clue, but it doesn’t matter. Archeologists have uncovered the oldest prosthetic device ever uncovered on the earth from a mummy.

At first, archeologists were not too sure that what they saw was an actual prosthetic. When they revealed what the contents of tomb, they found a mummy with an odd piece of wood attached to its’ right foot. Their instinct was, as with the typical mummy unearthing occurrences, that the object may have been cosmetic and purely materialistic, it was not however. The device was designed to aid ancient Egyptians whilst they walked.

To prove the actual functionality of the contraption, researcher Jacky Finch hired two volunteers who were missing their right toes. These volunteers were instructed that while barefoot, they were to wear ancient Egyptian thongs, which were replica leather sandals of the time period from where it presumed the device was made.

Tests results were favorable for the toe. Gait specialist observed video footage of the test runs and the volunteers proved that the device improved their walking, especially their ability to push off one toe.

According to i09, volunteers achieved an average 87% of the flexion achieved by their normal left toe, while the three part wood and leather design produced nearly 78% flexion. The first test subject had problems while wearing the device with bare feet, but the second volunteer was able to produce between 60-63% flexion wearing the replicas with or without the sandals.

The study done by Finch concluded that the device would optimize its use if it was worn in conjunction with the sandals. His report according to i09 will be released online at Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics. It may offer insight for those DIY enthusiasts missing a toe and wanting to save money on a modern device. 

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