Archeologists find 3000-Year Old Wooden Toe

Toe prosthesis of a female burial from the Theban tomb TT95, early first millennium BC. Egyptian Museum Cairo, JE100016a. (© University of Basel, LHTT. Image: Matjaž Kačičnik)

Foot problems have been around for all of human history. In fact, researchers at University of Basel in Switzerland are studying a prosthetic toe made from wood that may be 3,000 years old. The toe, which was found in an Egyptian burial site near Luxor named Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. This necropolis is large with many private tombs. In 1857, Alexander Henry Rhind, a Scottish archeologist found a tomb with the seal of Pharoh Amenhotep III. Amenhotep III or Amenhotep the Magnificent died in 1350 BC, and while he wasn’t buried here, scientists know that many of these tombs are 3,000 years old.

The toe belonged to the daughter of a priest, someone who was close to the royal family. Unlike many early prosthetics, the cairo toe was both functional and meticulously carved to mimic an actual human toe.

From a press release issued by the University of Basel:

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.

Ancient Egyptians had little need or opportunity for shoes. We typically think of ancient people with sandals, but it’s likely they also went barefoot much of the time. They didn’t have high quality, supportive footwear like we now enjoy. With this high visibility of feet in their culture, it’s quite possible this woman’s high station gave her access to an artisan that could give her a prosthetic that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Podiatry and Toes

As podiatrists our primary interest is in keeping your feet healthy. These days prosthetics is a very specialized area of medicine. What we can do is help keep those toes working. If you have toe problems, broken toes, hammertoes, turf toe or even a toenail fungus, call us today and schedule an appointment. The doctors at Foot & Ankle Center are here to help with all of your foot care needs.

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