Bone with a badly healed fracture

From Abydos, Egypt
New Kingdom, about 1550-1070 BC

Evidence of diseases and injuries can be found in both mummies and skeletons from ancient Egypt. Among the most common injuries are fractures. Most of these heal well, and the injured limb functioned normally once it had healed. From the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC) onwards, wooden splints were used to prevent the bones from moving, and to discourage the injured person from using the limb while it healed.

However, there were no plaster casts to support the bone and prevent it taking any weight. This meant that if any weight was put on the limb, the two ends of the bone might slip past each other and fuse out of alignment, as has happened with this bone. The healed limb would have been completely sound, but considerably shorter than the uninjured leg, so that the individual would have walked with a permanent limp.

Fractures to the thigh bones were less common than those to the arms, but required a longer period of healing. X-rays of King Merenptah (reigned 1213-1203 BC) of the 19th Dynasty show that the heads of both his femurs had been fractured. This type of injury is common among the elderly, often due to falls, consistent with the fact that Merenptah assumed the throne after he was fifty years old.

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More information


J. Filer, Disease, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


Length: 39.500 cm (max.)

Museum number

EA 37340


Excavated by the Egypt Exploration Fund


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