Date: Thu, 15 Feb 1996 14:41:17 -0600 (MDT)
From: (Michael Rhodes)
Subject: Re: Q: on mummy leg
Message-id: <>

Mummy with an artificial leg

From Michael Rhodes, on ANE List. 15 February, 1996

I just spoke today with my college here at BYU, Wilfred Griggs, who has been conducting the investigation on this mummy. He is leaving for Egypt tomorrow, but asked me to pass on some more information. I can contact him there by phone or fax if there are other questions.

Professor Griggs, with two orthopedic surgeons and a radiologist took x-rays of the mummy's leg. In addition, they used a surgical drill to enter the area of the metal pin. They took a small sample of the pin, and mass spectrograph analysis has shown it to be quite pure iron. It is hand made. The upper portion had a corkscrew form which was screwed into the femur. The lower portion had flanges on it and was inserted into the tibia with a mixture of what appears to be sawdust and resin. The orthopedic surgeons said the design and method of attachment is remarkably similar to what is used today. The flanges on the pin keep the bone from rotating. The orthopedic surgeons said that the entire process shows a degree of sophistication that compares with modern surgical techniques.

There is no doubt that the pin was placed in the leg anciently. Pieces of the original wrapping material was stuck across the joint. The patella was missing. Professor Griggs believes that the pin was inserted and the leg reatached after the death of the person. The surgeons, however, point out that so elaborate a reattachment (flanges to prevent rotation, etc.) would be unlikely for one already dead. But the degree of surgical skill needed to reattach a limb seems unlikely to have existed anciently. The whole thing is difficult to explain.

Michael D. Rhodes
Department of Ancient Scripture
Brigham Young University