The 2,200-year-old remains of a man with a deformed knee attached to a prosthetic leg tipped with a horse hoof have been discovered in a tomb in an ancient cemetery near Turpan, China.
The tomb holds the man and a younger woman, who may or may not have known the male occupant, scientists say.
"The excavators soon came to find that the left leg of the male occupant is deformed, with the patella, femur and tibia together and fixed at 80 ," archaeologists wrote in a paper published recently in the journal Chinese Archaeology. [In Photos: Ancient King's Mausoleum Discovered in China]
Top Prosthetic Limbs Bring Hope to Amputees
The fused knee would have made it hard for the man to walk or ride horses without the prosthetic leg, the researchers found. The man couldn't straighten his left leg out so the prosthetic leg, when attached, allowed the left leg to touch the floor when walking. The horse hoof at the bottom of the prosthetic leg acted like a foot.
The prosthetic leg was "made of poplar wood; it has seven holes along the two sides with leather tapes for attaching it to the deformed leg," the archaeologists wrote. "The lower part of the prosthetic leg is rendered into a cylindrical shape, wrapped with a scrapped ox horn and tipped with a horsehoof, which is meant to augment its adhesion and abrasion."