A team of scientists has conducted tests using replicas of two foot prostheses apparently used in Ancient Egypt, one of them found in the foot of a mummy, and suggest that it is more than likely that they are the first prostheses appeared in the world.
University of Manchester researcher Dr Jacky Finch wanted to find out if a wood and leather toe dated between 950 and 710 BC. found in a female mummy buried near Luxor, and another artificial finger dated before 600 BC and designed in cardboard (a mixture of linen paper, glue and plaster), with their corresponding sandals, they could have been used as practical tools to help homeowners walk.
They both showed important signs of wear and characteristics of its design, suggest that they could have been more than just cosmetic accessories.
Dr. Finch stated that “several experts have examined these objects and suggested that they were the first prosthetic devices in history. There are many cases in Ancient Egypt of the creation of false parts of the human body for burial, but the wear and tear, in addition to their design, suggested that they were used by people to help them walk.”.
“Trying to demonstrate this has been very complex as it took not only experts in Egyptian funeral practices, but also experts in prosthetic design and computer technicians to carry out computerized evaluations of their operation.”.
For check its usefulness, Dr. Finch summoned two volunteers who were missing their big toe, to test two replicas of the ancient toes found that they had designed to fit each volunteer, based on the two Egyptian prostheses and using the same materials as before.
Each volunteer was asked to walk down a 10-meter walkway with their bare feet, in their own shoes, and then with the replicas, both with and without sandals. His movement was followed by 10 special cameras, while being measured the pressure of his steps using a special mat.
Everyone was surprised to see how well the volunteers had walked using these devices, although one of them was able to do it better than the other. Camera footage revealed that when one of the volunteers wore the sandals that they replicated the cardboard, had reached 87% of flexion, while with the wood and leather prosthesis the flexion was 78%.
It was just as interesting to see that the ability to push the finger Prosthetic was not so good when the volunteer was not wearing the sandals. In the case of the second volunteer, he was able to produce between 60% and 63% flexion when using the replicas both with and without sandals.
When measuring the pressure using the replicas, it was found that there were not as many pressure points as expected, which indicated that the fake fingers were not causing undue discomfort or skin damage. However, when volunteers wore just the replica sandals without the fake toes, the pressure applied under the foot rose sharply.
Given this, Dr. Finch said that “pressure data tells us that it would have been very difficult for an ancient Egyptian to lose his big toe and continue to walk normally in traditional sandals. They could come up with a few solutions, but the research suggested that the use of these fake toes had been designed to walk in a certain style of sandals, which the volunteers have tried”.
Along with the test data, the volunteers were also asked to fill out a questionnaire about how they had felt with both prostheses. The case of the replica of cardboard, the comfort had not approved, although both agreed that it is very useful as a cosmetic replacement. The case of wood and leather finger, they both found it to be extremely comfortable, stating that in a very short time they could get used to walking with them.
The result of this study was published in the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, and represents the first prosthesis known to date, which emerged in Ancient Egypt, since it is at least 400 years earlier than the one believed to be the oldest, a wooden and bronze leg found in a Roman burial in Capua, in southern Italy, which had been dated to 300 BC, and of which only one replica remains, as the original was destroyed during a bombing London in WWII.
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