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Ancient Egyptian Prosthetics

March 8, 2017

Artificial toes from ancient Egypt may have been functional prosthetics.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Test-driving a mummy’s toe. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The first medical prosthetics may not have been false teeth or peg legs, but fake toes. This according to biomedical Egyptologist Jacky Finch of the University of Manchester in England, writing in the journal Lancet. She and her team studied artificial toes from ancient Egypt, one of which had been attached to a mummy. To find out if they were more than just decorative, the researchers made replicas of the artificial appendages and tested them on volunteers with missing big toes.

JACKY FINCH (University of Manchester, England):

So we put little reflective bobbles, which were placed actually on their foot segments, and got them to walk along a ten meter walkway, and these bobbles were picked up by ten cameras.

HIRSHON:

That, combined with pressure sensors, showed that the toes were not only comfortable, but could indeed provide assistance in walking. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Written by Science Update staff