Scientists examine 3,000-year-old wooden prosthetic toe

Artificial toe from Egypt likely ‘one of the oldest prosthetic devices in human history’

A wooden toe from Egypt has been examined by scientists in Switzerland. Photograph: Matja Kacicnik/University of Basel

A wooden toe from Egypt has been examined by scientists in Switzerland. Photograph: Matja Kacicnik/University of Basel

 

Scientists in Switzerland have re-examined a 3,000-year-old wooden prosthetic toe, likely to be “one of the oldest prosthetic devices in human history”.

Egyptologists from the University of Basel, along with other experts, used modern microscopy, X-rays and computer tomography to demonstrate that the toe was refitted a number of times to ensure a best fit for its owner.

The “one-of-a-kind” prosthesis belonged to an Egyptian priest’s daughter and was found in a female burial plot from the necropolis of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna close to Luxor, Egypt, according to the university.

Following the new analysis, researchers said the object was “highly developed” and “testifies to the skills of an artisan who was very familiar with the human physiognomy”.

“The technical know-how can be seen particularly well in the mobility of the prosthetic extension and the robust structure of the belt strap,” according to the university’s website.

The toe was crafted in a “laborious and meticulous manner”, which indicates its owner “valued a natural look, aesthetics and wearing comfort and that she was able to count on highly qualified specialists to provide this.”

The object dates from the early Iron Age and was discovered in a plundered shaft tomb which is part of an “elite” cemetery built for a small upper class close to the royal family.