History

Ancient Artificial Eye
Dec. 18 2006 Around the time that the great pyramids were built in Egyptand Stonehenge was erected in England a young woman living in what is now Iran lost an eye and was fitted with a prosthetic device.The 4800-year-old artificial eye was recently found by archaeologists working at the Burnt City historical site in southeastern Iran according to a report published by the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies a London-based research and educational program.The find supports speculation that such prosthetics were available to a fortunate few in the ancient world. An early Hebrew text for example references a woman who wore an artificial eye made of gold (Yer. Ned. 41c comp. Yer. Sanh. 13c).The newly found eye isnt gold but it probably looked more like the real thing.At first glance it seems natural tar mixed with animal fat has been used in making [the eye] said archaeologist Mansur Sayyed-Sajadi who is directing the excavation. Further testing will be needed to determine its exact composition.Sayyed-Sajadi added that whoever made the eye likely used a fine golden wire thinner than half a millimeter to draw even the most delicate eye capillaries.

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Parallel lines were also drawn around the pupil to form a diamond shape.Two holes at the sides helped hold it in place in the womans eye socket. Sayyed-Sajadi said remaining eyelid tissues are still evident on the eyeball as are markings that suggest the woman developed an abscess in her eyelid due to frequent contact with the object.The eyeball was found with the skeletal remains of its wearer in an early cemetery. The researchers believe the woman was between 25 and 30 years old when she died.Clay vessels ornamental beads a leather sack and a bronze mirror were also found in her grave.Michael Harris a senior lecturer in optometry at the University of California at Berkeley said the objects as well as the effort it must have taken to prepare and fit the woman for the artificial eye suggest she was a member of the elite.Its unlikely such attention and effort would have been paid to a commoner Harris said.She may have been a member of a royal family or an otherwise wealthy individual.

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