Are These Fake Toes The First Artificial Limbs?

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While the science of prosthetics or artificial limbs is thought of as a fairly recent branch of medicine, Jacky Finch and her team at the University of Manchester beg to differ - They believe that the first artificial limbs can be traced all the way back to the Egyptian era, around 700 B.C.

The prosthetics they are referring to, are two big toes - The Greville Chester toe and the Tabaketenmut or Cairo toe, both of which were discovered inside Egyptian tombs.

The Greville Chester toe, discovered in 1881, near the modern-day Luxor, in Egypt, was constructed from Cartonnage - a paper Mache-like material made by dousing linen with animal glue, and then painted with tinted plaster to resemble the color of the skin. To make it look real as possible it even had a marking where a false toenail, once resided.

The Cairo toe which dates all the way back to between 900 -700 B.C. was discovered in the Thean Tomb in Meri, in 2000. Named after the female mummy it was attached to, the limb was build largely out of wood. Sporting features like a hinge to mimic a toe joint, a beveled front edge and a flatter underside to help with stability, it was surprisingly more sophisticated than the Greville Chester toe.

Both toes sported eight lacing holes on the inner edge and four on the outer - a feature researchers believe was used to fasten the toe to the foot or attach it to a sandal or shoe.

When these toes were discovered, most experts believed that they were purely ornamental and promptly tucked away inside museums. However, Egyptologist, Jacky Finch, had always been curious about the wear and tear on these so-called 'ornaments' and suspected that they were built for more practical use. She therefore, decided to test her hunch, by building exact replicas of the two toe specimens and then recruited two volunteers who had lost their right toes, to test them out.

In order to re-create the same conditions, the volunteers were asked to test the toes wearing replica Egyptian sandals. The researchers did not really expect much since in order to be true prosthetic devices, the toes not only had to be strong enough to withstand the volunteer's weight for long periods of time, but also, look real, be easy to remove and most importantly, be comfortable to walk with.

To their surprise, both volunteers were able to walk really well, especially with the Cairo toe, even proclaiming it 'really comfortable'. This feedback has led the Jacky Finch and her team to conclude that both the toes were indeed artificial limbs. Prior to this, researchers had believed that the first prosthetic device, a false leg made from bronze, was created in 300 B.C. by the Romans. Looks like the Egyptians beat them to it, by at least 400 years!

Sources: BBC.co.uk, livescience.com, blogs.discoverymagazine.com

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241 Comments
  • crazy lady10over 4 years
    I need this info for a project and I do think it is cool and grose.
    • Bansheealmost 7 years
      I don't see what's so disgusting about these Egyptain prosthetics. I think it's astonishing that the art of creating prosthetics goes back that far.
      • 4ever9904
        4ever9904about 7 years
        Creepy! I think i'm gonna get nightmares
        • cat121212
          cat121212about 7 years
          so not cool it is weird
          • katiegab
            katiegababout 7 years
            ewwwww. that's so weird!
            • sewzoeyabout 7 years
              they are so big. i dont think it would fit any one...
              • nateover 7 years
                The weather is cool out side withbreeze.
              • sofiaover 7 years
                fake toes crazy!!!
                • gjrivers
                  gjriversover 7 years
                  im kinda scared now
                  • loverofpuppeisover 7 years
                    creepy and wow