The Artistry of a 3000-Year-Old Wooden Toe

The Artistry of a 3000-Year-Old Wooden Toe

Saturday July 15, 2017 Written by Genevieve

The Cairo Toe

It’s safe to say humanity has made a bit of progress over the past 200,000-or-so years. Innovation is our game; present us with a problem, and, in most cases, we’ll be pretty well placed to solve it, then regularly improve upon that solution as our technologies become more sophisticated.

But every now and again something ancient is uncovered that outshines our efforts in form, style, efficiency and/or functionality. The Cairo Toe, a 3000-year-old prosthesis, is one such creation that has filled today’s prosthesis specialists with admiration.

Masterfully fashioned from wood, rope, textile bands and leather, the ‘toe’ was discovered in 1997, in the tomb of a woman buried in Upper Egypt. And unlike its skeletal owner, to whom it was still attached, the prosthesis was found perfectly functional and completely intact.

The Cairo Toe

According to experts at the University of Basel, where the toe is being placed under the microscope, the appendage is so well designed that it would have even been possible for its owner to wear it with sandals, and possibly have its subtle presence go undetected by others, at a glance.

What makes the piece especially remarkable is the fact that archaeologists have not found any other prostheses of this kind from the same time. (The closest is another Egyptian toe from around 600 BCE.) Historians have guessed at the maker’s identity, suggesting they may have been an expert weapons craftsperson. Our guess? It was aliens.