Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ancient Prosthetics

After noticing a plethora of news articles documenting the discovery of artificial limbs at archaeological digs world wide, I began to bookmark these discoveries and the end result is this little collation:

Artificial Toes / Feet:

The fake toe from the Cairo museum in Egypt was found in 2000 in a tomb near the ancient city of Thebes. Archaeologists speculated the 50- to 60-year-old woman the prosthesis came from might have lost her toe due to complications from diabetes.

The wood and leather prosthesis dates from 1069 to 664 B.C., based on artifacts it was found within the mummy's burial chamber. This means it predates what was previously thought of as the earliest known functioning prosthesis, the Roman Capua Leg, a bronze artifact dating from about 300 B.C. The leg was once at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but was destroyed by bombing during World War II.

Replicas of a second false Egyptian right big toe on display at the British Museum in London, albeit without its mummy, will also be tested. This artifact, named the Greville Chester Great Toe after the collector who acquired it for the museum in 1881, is made from cartonnage, a sort of papier maché made using linen, glue and plaster. Based on the way the linen threads were spun, it dates from 1295 to 664 B.C.

From Stat News:
A medieval skeleton found in Austria has a unique appendage — an iron-and-wood prosthetic foot. Researchers say the 6th century remains are the oldest found in Europe with a prosthetic limb. The skeleton, found in a Frankish Empire-era cemetery, was outfitted with a wooden peg with an iron ring, perhaps covered in leather, which served as an artificial foot.

This toe removal clearly took place when the patient was alive, the team reports, because an intact layer of soft tissue covered the amputation site. What is more, the patient's missing toe had been replaced by a carefully crafted wooden toe, which attached to the foot and was kept in place by way of a series of wooden plates and leather strings.

From Daily Mail:
This is a bronze and wooden leg that was found in a Roman burial in Capua, Southern Italy. That has been dated to 300 BC although only a replica now remains as the original was destroyed in a bombing raid over London during the war.

In 2013, archeologists working in southern Austria found the grave of a man who lived during the 6th century A.D. But they didn't publish one of the most fascinating parts of the find until now: The man wore a prosthetic left foot. The prosthesis was crafted of wood and an iron ring, writes Elahe Izadi for The Washington Post, and the discovery marks one of the oldest examples of a prosthetic limb found in Europe. “When I saw that they had this prosthesis, I thought, ‘OK, this is something special,’” Michaela Binder, a bioarchaeologist with the Austrian Archaeological Institute, tells Megan Gannon for Atlas Obscura. The researchers note that the lower parts of his tibia and fibula as well as his foot are missing, but signs of healing on the bone ends show that the man survived the amputation. Other signs in his joints suggest that he actually used the prostheses, and it was not just a cosmetic device, according to the study recently published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

About 1,500 years ago, there lived a man in Europe without a left foot. Instead, he wore a wooden prosthetic limb.  Archaeologists digging in southern Austria's Hemmaberg found the man's grave in 2013 but only recently revealed details about the prosthetic. The findings will be published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

Archaeologists in Austria believe they have found Europe’s oldest prosthetic implant – a sixth-century wooden foot. The discovery was made in the grave of a man missing his left foot and ankle at Hemmaberg, southern Austria. At the end of his leg was an iron ring and remnants of a clump of wood and leather. Sabine Ladstätter, of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, said: “He appears to have got over the loss of his foot and lived for two more years at least with this implant, and walking pretty well.”

Artificial Hands:

From Healio:
The loss of a hand in combat did not stay Gen. Marcus Sergius from smiting ancient Rome’s Carthaginian foes. The general made himself an iron hand and got back into battle against Hannibal’s troops.  “...In two Services, he was wounded three and twenty times; by which means he had little use of either his Hands or his Feet” . Though Sergius was disabled, he was able to keep fighting with the aid of a slave.

An An early pioneer in ‘useful’ artificial hands was a German mercenary named Gottfried “Götz” von Berlichingen (1480-1562), who developed a hand with rudimentary series of gears and catches that allowed certain parts of the hand to move.

The skeleton is in excellent condition, intact except for the missing left foot and bottom of the left tibia and fibula. Where the missing bones would have been archaeologists found a circular iron band just under three inches in diameter. Two small iron rivets closed the band and decayed remains of wooden slats inside the ring were fixed to the ring with four iron nails. The shortened ends of the left tibia and fibia have dark stains that may be all that’s left of whatever organic material, probably wood or leather, that connected the prosthesis to the leg. The wood remnants and the position of the band in the grave indicate the device may have been a wooden leg with the iron band on the bottom.

Artificial Legs:

Archaeologists excavating an early Medieval cemetery in Austria uncovered the remains of a 6th century middle-aged man who’d had his left foot and ankle amputated. Evidence of a prosthetic device was found where his missing appendage would have been, this included stains left by a long since deteriorated wooden object, an iron ring used to stabilise the device, and dark staining on the lower leg bones that suggests leather straps were used to attach the prosthesis.

Meanwhile in Turpan, China, archaeologists discovered the remains of a 2,200 year old male buried with an elaborately designed prosthetic leg. Made from poplar, the leg had holes along each side to allow for leather straps to attach the prosthesis to the man’s own leg. The base was carved into a cylindrical shape, wrapped with a scrapped ox horn and then tipped with a horse-hoof, presumably to increase the grip and prevent extensive wear from use.

An ancient nine-inch metal screw found in the 2600-year-old mummy of an Egyptian priest Usermontu’s leg became a worldwide sensation. The discovery was made in 1996. Dr. Wilfred Griggs, Egyptologist and a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University was doing research on mummy DNA in the six resident mummies on display in the Museum, when an X-ray revealed a metal screw near the kneecap of Usermontu. (“DNA Research Conducted on Egyptian Museum Mummies,” Rosicrucian Digest, 1995)

Archaeologists working on the resting place in an ancient cemetery near Turpan – northwest China – found that the unusual prosthetic was fitted after the man’s knee became unusable. The team from Academia Turfanica wrote in the journal Chinese archaeology: "The excavators soon came to find that the left leg of the male occupant is deformed, with the patella, femur and tibia [fused] together and fixed at 80 [degrees].” They added that his deformity would have made it hard for him to manoeuvre or ride a horse as he was unable to straighten his left leg. The team said: "[It was] made of poplar wood; it has seven holes along the two sides with leather tapes for attaching it to the deformed leg.

Indirect textual evidences, e.g. the Hegesistratus story recorded by Herodotus (484–425 BC) about an artificial wooden foot, suggest that foot prostheses were already known in the Graeco-Roman world in the fifth century BC3. The oldest prosthesis of a big toe was found in Thebes, Egypt and dated around 950–710 BC. So far the oldest preserved leg-prosthesis assigned to a man’s skeleton with his right leg missing from the mid-calf was discovered in Capua, Italy, in 1885 and dated to circa 300 BC.1 The ‘Capua leg’ had a wooden core and luxurious bronze sheeting, indicating the owner’s wealthy status. Its functionality has remained uncertain, as the device was lost during the Second World War.

Artificial Eyes:

According to a report by Maryam Tabeshian of the Cultural Heritage News Agency of Iran (December 10, 2006), researchers have excavated a 4,800-year-old artificial eye along with a skeleton and other findings from the Burnt City (located near the city of Zahedan in Iran’s Seistan-Baluchistan province in the southeast of iran).

From Dallas Eye:
The first in-socket artificial eyes made in the 15th century were made of gold with colored enamel. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Venetian glass artisans discovered a formula that could be tolerated inside the eye socket. These early glass eyes were crude, uncomfortable to wear, and very fragile. Even so, the Venetian method was considered the finest in the world. They kept their methods and materials secret until the end of the eighteenth century.

The world's earliest prosthetic eye was worn by an ancient Persian priestess. The female soothsayer stood 6' (1.82m) tall, and the mesmerizing effects of the golden eyeball would have convinced those who saw it that she could see into the future. "It must have glittered spectacularly, conferring on the woman a mysterious and supernatural gaze," said leader of the Italian team Lorenzo Costantini, adding, "She must have been a very striking and exotic figure." 

The priestess lived 5,000 years ago in what is now Iran, where her skeleton was unearthed in 2006 by Iranian and Italian archaeologists excavating an ancient necropolis at Shahr-i-Sokhta ["Burnt City"] in the Sistan desert. The eyeball was made of a lightweight material thought to be derived from bitumen paste and later determined to consist of a mixture of natural tar and animal fat. Lines had been engraved radiating from the iris and gold that had been applied in a thin layer over the surface. A tiny hole had been drilled on each side of the half-sphere, which had a diameter of just over 1" (2.5cm), so that it could be held in place with thread. 

The artificial eye, discovered in an ancient grave, was in the left eye socket of the woman. The archeology team estimated the age of the eye between 2900 and 2800 BC. This artificial eye should be considered as the first ocular prosthesis in the medical history. 

From Fox News:
A 5,000-year-old golden artificial eye that once stared out mesmerisingly from the face of a female soothsayer or priestess in ancient Persia has been unearthed by Iranian and Italian archaeologists. The eyeball — the earliest artificial eye found — would have transfixed those who saw it, convincing them that the woman — thought to have been strikingly tall — had occult powers and could see into the future, archaeologists said. It was found by Mansour Sajjadi, leader of the Iranian team, which has been excavating an ancient necropolis at Shahr-i-Sokhta in the Sistan desert on the Iranian-Afghan border for nine years. Italian archaeologists said yesterday that the prophetess had also been buried with an ornate bronze hand mirror, which she presumably used to check her “startling appearance”.

Further study showed it's made of bitumen and discovered traces of gold and colour. In it's original condition, the eye was white with an iris and pupil. The superb skills of manufacturer used fine gold wire to represent the capillaries! Triangles were traced emerging from the iris. The effect must have been fascinating at a time of superstition and beliefs in seers, prophets and oracles. 

The 5,000 year-old eye was unearthed two years ago and is believed to be the oldest prosthetic in the world. Made of natural tar and animal fat, the eye was placed inside the left eye socket of a 28- to 32-year-old woman. 

However, French surgeon Ambroise Paré (1510-90) could have laid claim to be the father of facial prosthetics. He was the first to describe the use of artificial eyes and constructed them from enamelled gold, silver, porcelain and glass. Paré made indwelling eyes (the “hypoblephara”) but also external devices retained with wire attachments (the “ekblephara”), as surgical removal of the eyeball was rare until the 19th century. Doubtless Paré’s prostheses were impressive to look at and highly desirable, but must also have been heavy, quite fragile and extremely expensive. An important figure in the history of artificial eyes from Germany was Ludwig Müller-Uri (1811-88), a maker of doll’s eyes, who developed glass for prosthetic use with local people. In 1868 in collaboration with his nephew Friedrich Müller-Uri a new form of glass called Cryolite was developed. 

As far back as the 5th c. BC Roman and Egyptian priests were making eyes from painted clay, which were attached to a cloth and worn over and outside the socket, in front of the eyelids. This type is known in Greek as the ekblepharon. 

from the 26th Dynasty age to the Dark/Middle age (500–1500 ad) the making of artificial eyes was largely abandoned. It was not until the renaissance period (1400–1700 ad) that artificial eyes saw a resurgence. The 16th century saw artificial eyes being fitted in the socket and experimentation with materials. Ambroise Paré, a French surgeon, described two types of artificial eyes: the 'Hypoblephara', which fitted underneath the eyelid, and the 'Ekblephara' which fitted externally: both of which were expensive, heavy, painful to wear and lacked the moist quality of a normal eye.

From Fox News:
Lorenzo Costantini, leader of the Italian group, said the eyeball still had traces of the gold that had been applied in a thin layer over the surface. On either side of it two tiny holes had been drilled, through which a fine thread, perhaps also gold, had held the eyeball in place. Analaysis suggested that the woman may have suffered from an abscess on her eyelid because of long-term contact with the golden eyeball.

For as long as medical intervention has been needed to remove limbs there has been a demand for prosthetic body parts. Over the centuries artificial limbs have evolved into works of bionic and artistic innovation. So when archaeologists unearth the man-made body parts used in ancient times the discovery serves as a reminder of how far medicine and technology have come.

Ancient Dentures:

Of the so-called 'prosthetic appliances' that have been documented from ancient Egypt, the best known example consists of a mandibular second molar connected by gold wire to a worn third molar. It was discovered at Giza, near Cairo in a burial shaft dating to approximately 2,500 BC and importantly not found attached to a skull. The dental report at the time stated that judging by the colour and anatomic form of the teeth they belonged to the same individual. Additionally, as the roots of the third molar were very absorbed, due to a probable inflammatory process, the tooth had become mobile, and so in an attempt to stabilise it, it had been attached to its neighbouring tooth. 

The third and final appliance was excavated from Tura el-Asmant, and was found attached to a skull, the only one from ancient Egypt to be found in situ. It was dated to the Greek (Ptolemaic) period of ancient Egypt (332–330 BC), and was described as a bridge whose single pontic was a right maxillary central incisor. It was fixed into place by a silver wire passing through two holes that had been drilled mesio-distally through the crown of the tooth, whilst the exact means of connection to the adjacent teeth is unknown.

Screw-in teeth are not a feat of modern dentistry. Archaeological evidence suggests the ancient Chinese used bamboo pegs to replace lost teeth. The purpose of these early implants was much the same as today – to restore an aesthetic smile (in life or after death perhaps) – but rather than being made from titanium they were fabricated from other materials. Dental implants have also been dated back to the Maya in 600 AD. Ancient Egyptian and Celtic remains have revealed precious metals, ivory and even other human teeth used in their implants.

Proving prehistoric man’s ingenuity, researchers have found that dental drilling dates back 9,000 years. Primitive dentists drilled nearly perfect holes into teeth of live patients between 5500 and 7000 B.C. Researchers recently carbondated at least nine skulls with 11 drill holes found in a graveyard in Pakistan. This means dentistry is at least 4,000 yrs older than first thought.

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