Oldest prosthetic helped Egyptian mummy to walk

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

Egyptian mummy false toe
Image caption,
This artificial toe was a practical device. Pic: Dr Jacky Finch and the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

A false toe thought to be the oldest discovered prosthetic device has passed a test to see whether it could have been used as an aid for walking.

University of Manchester researchers copied wooden toes found with Egyptian mummies, buried about 3,000 years ago

A volunteer with missing toes, wearing the kind of sandals worn in ancient Egypt, tested the replicas on a pressure measurement system.

They proved to have been practical walking devices, rather than cosmetic.

Dr Jacky Finch said: "The pressure data tells us that it would have been very difficult for an ancient Egyptian missing a big toe to walk normally wearing traditional sandals.

"They could of course have remained bare foot or perhaps have worn some sort of sock or boot over the false toe, but our research suggests that wearing these false toes made walking in a sandal more comfortable."

Another artificial toe, made from plaster, linen and glue, was from a burial from about 2,500 years ago.

But the wood and leather toe, which the study found to be the more comfortable, had been buried with a woman believed to have lived some time between 950BC and 710BC.

Researchers suggest that this could make it the oldest known prosthetic device - older than a false leg taken from a Roman burial from 300BC, which was destroyed in a World War II bombing raid.

The tests were carried out at the Gait Laboratory at Salford University's Centre for Rehabilitation and Human Performance Research.

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