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Scientists Are Studying A 3,000-Year-Old Prosthetic Toe

21/06/2017 7:39 PM AEST | Updated 21/06/2017 7:48 PM AEST

You might have heard of pirates having a peg leg, but have you ever seen a prosthetic big toe handcrafted out of wood?  

In what is likely to be one of the oldest prosthetic finds in human history, Swiss Egyptologists have dug up a one-of-a-kind wooden toe that was used to help a young girl walk over 3,000 years ago.

University of Basel

Discovered in the tomb of a young female at the necropolis Sheikh ’Abd el-Qurna, close to Luxor, Egypt, the owner of the prosthetic is believed to have been the daughter of a high priest.

And was part of an upper class family who had close relationships with the ruling royal family at the time of her death.

The researchers from the University of Basel were able to work out this information because of the high artisan quality and attention to detail that went into producing the item.

In fact the team said that the mobility of the prosthetic extension and the belt strap indicated that the owner valued a natural look and wearing comfort, and was clearly able to pay for it.

They were also able to derive that the Early Iron Age prosthetic was refitted for the individual several times over the course of its lifetime.

Located in a plundered shaft tomb, that is cut into the bedrock of a long-time-idle burial chapel at the graveyard hill, the site has been under investigation since 2015.

Although the site started life as an early graveyard, many of these rock-cut structures were reused and remodeled several times for burials during the first millennium BC as well. 

Much later, they served as dwellings mostly for locals; a process that began with early Christian hermits, and only ended in the early twentieth century.

The toe was first taken to the University of Cairo, and since has been studied in detail using microscopes and X-ray technology.

This is in order for the specialists to develop precise digital elevation, landscape and architecture models for this area. These will then be combined to an archaeological and geological 3-D map that will illustrate the morphology of the terrain and subterranean structures.

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