Prosthetics Have been Around for Thousands of Years

Fagjun | Published 2017-05-24 04:26

Prosthetics may seem to be a more recent invention, but they've in fact been in use since the ancient times.

These days, prosthetic limbs are undergoing some amazing innovations. For example, there is new technology that allows amputees to move prosthetic limbs with their minds. Usually, prosthetic limbs move only if the wearer physically moves them. Now, these limbs can feel like they're actually part of the wearer's body.

This new technology is the latest development in a field that has been around since ancient times. But how did prosthetics develop anyway?

A History of Prosthetic Limbs

Warriors in ancient times lost life and limb in battle as a matter of course.
[A statue of Laomedon, King of Troy; photo by Luc de Leeuw]

Ancient Rome and Greece saw many wars. Warfare was brutal, and while some soldiers make it back home alive, many others didn't. Some of those who did make it back alive didn't come home in one piece. Losing a limb or another body part in battle was nearly a given.

Writings from the brightest minds of that time give us a glimpse into the earliest amputations and creation of prosthetics. Hippocrates, considered to be the Father of Western Medicine, had written about amputating extremities. The historian Herodotus, meanwhile, had written an account about a Persian prisoner who cut off his own foot to escape his shackles. This escaped prisoner later on replaced his foot with a wooden one.

Ancient Egyptian medical practitioners, meanwhile, learned more about amputation through allegedly sinister means. Medical researchers in Alexandria learned how to prevent excessive bleeding allegedly by dissecting and vivisecting criminals on death row.

There have also been historical accounts and archaeological evidence of the use of prosthetics. The Roman general Marcus Sergius Silus lost his sword hand during the Second Punic War. Though he could have chosen to retire from active duty, he ordered a prosthetic hand and learned to use a sword with his left hand. His prosthetic hand served a purpose by holding his shield.

Archaologists have also discovered prosthetic toes in an Egyptian tomb in Luxor. Wear and tear on the wood toes indicate that the toes were functional and weren't just for show.

Prosthetics Past, Present, and Future

In the 16th century, French royal surgeon Ambroise Paré invented prosthetic limbs that can bend instead of staying rigid. Prosthetics and other tools for aiding amputees have continued to improve since then.

Unfortunately, the world is still experiencing war in the present. Thus, combatants and even civilians are still in danger of losing life and limb, much like in ancient times. Now, though, prosthetic limbs are giving amputees and people with disabilities the more chances to push their limits. Over the past millennia, technological advances in prosthetics have been improving by leaps and bounds. Soon, there may be more advancements to come.

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