Oldest artificial toe for Egyptian noble woman dates from 3,000 years ago
It is likely to be one of the oldest prosthetic devices in human history: together with other experts, Egyptologists from the University of Basel have reexamined an artificial wooden big toe. The find is almost 3,000 years old and was discovered in a female burial from the necropolis of Sheikh ´Abd el-Qurna, close to Luxor. This area is currently being studied using state-of-the-art methods.
The international team investigated the one-of-a-kind prosthesis using modern microscopy, X-ray technology, and computer tomography. They were able to show that the wooden toe was refitted several times to the foot of its owner, a priest’s daughter.
The artificial toe from the early first millennium BC 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. The fact that the prosthesis was made in such a laborious and meticulous manner indicates that the owner valued a natural look, aesthetics and wearing comfort and that she was able to count on highly qualified specialists to provide this.
The prosthesis from the Early Iron Age was found in a plundered shaft tomb that was cut into the bedrock of an older, long time idle burial chapel at the graveyard hill of Sheikh ´Abd el-Qurna to the west of Luxor. This chapel belongs to a group of monumental rock-cut tombs from the late 15th century BC which were built for a small upper class that was close to the royal family.
Toe prosthesis of a female from Theban tomb TT95. Egyptian Museum Cairo, JE100016a