The false toe worn by a 3,000-year-old mummy has always been regarded as a simple ornament, added after death as part of burial rites.
But British scientists who have studied it believe the reality is that it is the world's first working artificial body part, centuries older than anything previously found.
A false toe made of out of wood and leather was found on a 3,000-year-old mummified body of an Egyptian noblewoman
* Obese and ruthless, the pharoah who was King AND Queen of Egypt
Now they are looking for volunteers who are missing the big toe on their right foot to wear a replica and try out their theory.
The original prosthetic, made out of wood and leather, is strapped to the foot of the mummified body of an Egyptian noblewoman currently on display at a museum in Cairo.
A similar false toe is worn by another mummy at the British Museum, but it has always been thought they were fitted after death as part of burial rites, perhaps to help them get about in the afterlife.
But a British Egyptologist who has examined both believes they were actually expertly fashioned to help their wearers get about and overcome their missing digit while they were still alive.
Both show what she believes are signs of wear and tear, and the Cairo toe is also jointed in the same way as a real one.
The appendage can bend in three places - just like a real toe - and scientists are now certain that it is a prosthetic
Now the team from Manchester University are to produce replicas which will be worn by volunteers to help them establish whether their theory is correct.
If true, the Cairo toe will be the world's oldest artificial body part, beating a leg forged from bronze by the Romans in around 300BC.
"We will use state-of-the-art technology to test whether the replicas of the artificial toes benefit the wearer and could therefore be deemed functional," said researcher Jacky Finch.
"The toes date from between 600 and 1,000BC, so if we can prove that one or both were functional then we will have pushed back prosthetic medicine by as much as 700 years."
The Cairo toe is articulated, just like the real thing, and is attached by a leather strap to the right foot of the woman, aged between 50 and 60. Her big toe had been amputated, and examination of her mummified body shows the site to have healed well.
The team has also examined a second false big toe found in an Egyptian sarcophagus and now held at the British Museum.
Known as the Greville Chester Great Toe, it is made from a papier mache-like substance and also shows signs of wear-and-tear, but it does not bend and is thought to have been a cosmetic replacement.
Now the researchers plan to recreate the articulated false toe and are looking for volunteers whose right foot is missing a big toe to trial it.
They will be examined under laboratory conditions to establish whether the device works well enough to have served as an artificial toe aiding walking and balance as much as 3,000 years ago.
The oldest known functional prosthesis was the Roman Capua Leg, made out of bronze and dating from about 300BC.
It was held at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but was destroyed by Luftwaffe bombs during the Second World War.
Source From Great News site : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-471203/Worlds-prosthetic-limb-3-000-year-old-Egyptian-mummy.html