Archaeologists uncover the world’s oldest prosthetic device

Egyptologist have confirmed that an artificial toe found on the remains of a mummy was not for cosmetic purposes, but instead an actual prosthetic device that helped the ancient Egyptian to walk. Consequently, it is considered the oldest assistive device ever discovered by archaeologists.

To prove the functionality of the device, researcher Jacky Finch hired two volunteers (both missing their right toe) to test the effectiveness of the artificial toe while wearing replica leather ancient Egyptian style sandals, and while in bare feet.

Once the tests were run and the video analyzed by gait experts, the volunteers' performance showed that the toe wasn't just for show. And in fact, the device gave them a definite advantage over not having it. The volunteers achieved 87% of the flexion achieved by their normal left toe, while the three part wood and leather design produced nearly 78%.

More importantly was the ability to push off using the toe. The first test subject had problems in bare feet, but the second volunteer was able to produce between 60-63% flexion wearing the replicas with or without the sandals.

Finch concluded that the device would have been particuarly effective for the person wearing the artificial toe in conjunction with the sandals.

Details of the study will soon appear online at the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics.