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Ancient Egyptians Made The World’s Oldest Prosthetics

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First Posted: May 18, 2013 09:47 AM EDT
A volunteer wearing the replica of an Egyptian prosthetic toe

A volunteer wearing the replica of an Egyptian prosthetic toe Credit:University of Manchester

 

There's enough evidence to clarify the amazing knowledge that the Egyptians possessed –– from can't-figure-it-out structure of the Pyramids, to the mummification process. However, the best is yet to arrive; the result of a scientific test suggests that ancient Egyptians probably possessed the knowledge of prosthetics.

To find out if a three part wood and leather toe found on a female mummy dating between 950 to 710 BC, and the artificial toe from Grivelle Chester made of cartonnage, Dr Jacky Finch, a researcher from the University of Manchester, carried out a series of tests at the Gait Laboratory at Salford University's Center for Rehabilitation and Human Performance Research.

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Cartonnage, which is basically just a mixture of linen, glue and plaster, is thought to be used as the prosthetic toe, which made their owners able to walk.

"Several experts have examined these objects and had suggested that they were the earliest prosthetic devices in existence. 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 try to prove this has been a complex and challenging process involving experts in not only Egyptian burial practices but also in prosthetic design and in computerized gait assessment," Dr Finch said.

To take the study further, Dr Finch took in two volunteers, both with missing right toes. Replicas of the ancient toes were 'fitted' into each of the volunteers, along with the Egyptian-style sandals. The volunteers were then asked to walk a 10 meter distance both with and without the sandals. Their movement was tracked and monitored using special cameras, which revealed the stunning result –– both the volunteers were able to walk much better than they did before, although, one volunteer performed better than the other.

"It was very encouraging that both volunteers were able to walk wearing the replicas. Now that we have the gait analysis data and volunteer feedback alongside the obvious signs of wear we can provide a more convincing argument that the original artifacts had some intended prosthetic function," Dr. Finch said, after assessing the experience of the volunteers.

This study is currently published in the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, and clearly hints the possibility of the Egyptians being the earliest prosthetics.

 

 

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