The First Prosthetic Eye Known In Archaeological Documentation

Shahr-i Sokhta, meaning “The burnt city”, is the name given to a Bronze Age urban settlement in what is now southern Iran. The site has been periodically excavated since its rediscovery in 1900 and in 2014 it was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Founded around 3200 BC and abandoned around 1800 BC, the settlement underwent four phases of construction, with three separate episodes of fire (hence the name). At its peak, it covered at least 150 hectares, including a 25-hectare cemetery with around 30,000 burials.

One of these burials, exactly number 6705, contained the well-preserved skeleton of an adult woman, aged 28 to 35.

As for the other characteristics of this mysterious skeleton, the head of the research team said: “Considering that most of the women lived in the Burnt City during ancient times were short, being 180 centimeters tall, this woman turns out to be the tallest woman who has ever been identified in this place “.

Probably she was a priestess or certainly a very important character.

Inside her tomb there were 25 ceramic vases, a copper alloy mirror, 10 lapis lazuli and turquoise beads, the remains of a leather bag and a basket. The organic materials are in such a condition that it has been possible to identify fragments of tissue on the bones, evidence that it had been wrapped in a shroud.

The most surprising and unique element of this burial, however, was found in his left eye socket. A 3 cm hemispherical artifact, the first prosthetic eye known in the archaeological documentation, datable between 2900 and 2800 BC.

A unique discovery

Early anthropological studies of the woman’s skull revealed important information about this artificial eye.

The traces of an abscess that formed under the eyebrow and that branched out into the socket of this woman’s left eye were immediately detected, causing its loss.

Referring to the magnificent method used to make this artificial eye, according to the head of the excavation team, considering the specific weight of this object, it seems that the main material used is made up of natural tar mixed with animal fat.

Two holes were also made in the sides of this eyeball to hold it in the eye socket and according to the excavation team leader, it appears that the leather bag, which was found inside a straw basket in the tomb, was used to contain the artificial eyeball in some cases, such as periods of sleep.

The eye has been perfectly reconstructed. On the outside you can see very small white spots. It is highly probable that the entire sclera was covered with a white color and then faded over time.

The iris was perfectly reconstructed using gold threads with a thickness of less than half a millimeter and forming a kind of diamond around the pupil placed in the center of the eyeball.

Surely the eye with the specks of gold shone in the sun or in the light of the torches, giving the “priestess” a very special look.

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