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Last Updated: Friday, 27 July 2007, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Cairo toe earliest fake body bit
fake toe
The "Cairo toe" appears to have been functional
An artificial big toe found on the foot of an ancient Egyptian mummy could be the world's earliest functional fake body part, UK experts believe.

A Manchester University team hope to prove that the leather and wood "Cairo toe" not only looked the part but also helped its owner walk.

They will test a replica in volunteers whose right big toe is missing.

If true, the toe will predate the currently considered earliest practical prosthesis - a fake leg from 300BC.

If we can prove it was functional then we will have pushed back prosthetic medicine by as much as 700 years
Lead researcher Jacky Finch

The Roman Capua Leg, made of bronze, was held at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but was destroyed by Luftwaffe bombs during the Second World War.

Lead researcher Jacky Finch said: "The toe dates from between 1069 and 664BC, so if we can prove it was functional then we will have pushed back prosthetic medicine by as much as 700 years."

Colleagues at the University of Salford will also be testing a second, even older ancient Egyptian big toe which is currently on display at the British Museum.

This artefact, from between 1295 and 664BC, is made from cartonnage, a kind of papier-mâché made from linen, glue and plaster.

fake toe
The British Museum toe may have been cosmetic

Like the Cairo toe, this too shows signs of wear, suggesting that it was worn by its owner in life and not simply attached to the foot during mummification for religious or ritualistic reasons.

However, unlike the Cairo toe, it does not bend, suggesting it may have been more cosmetic.

Jacky Finch said: "The Cairo toe is the most likely of the two to be functional as it is articulated and shows signs of wear.

"It is still attached to the foot of the mummy of a female between 50 and 60 years of age. The amputation site is also well healed."

The Cairo toe is on display at the Cairo Museum in Egypt.




SEE ALSO
'Bionic' limb breakthrough made
03 Jul 06 |  Health
King Tut 'died from broken leg'
08 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature

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