11 December 2023 The Future is the Product of the Past

Severed right hands reveal Trophy-Taking practices in Ancient Egypt

Twelve severed hands were found in Egypt as part of a horrifying “trophy-taking” practice that was just made revealed by a ground-breaking study.

The severed right hands have been discovered in three pits within a courtyard in front of the throne room of a 15th Dynasty (c.1640–1530 BC) Hyksos palace at Avaris/Tell el-Dab‘a in north-eastern Egypt.

This discovery is the first physical evidence of hand amputations in ancient Egypt, shedding new light on the civilization’s dark past.

Although the practice of placing severed hands is documented in tomb inscriptions and temple reliefs dating back to the New Kingdom, this is the first instance of an osteological analysis based on physical evidence.

Anatomical markers indicate that the hands belong to at least 12 adults, 11 of whom are male and one of whom is female. Once the attached parts of the forearm were removed, the hands were deposited in the pits with the fingers wide-splayed, primarily on their palm-facing sides.

Photo: Gresky, J. et al 2023 / Nature

Only six of the discovered hands have intact proximal row carpal bones, and no signs of cut marks or any soft tissue removal are present. No lower-arm bone fragments were found in the pit, which suggests that these hands were purposefully severed from the lower arms.

The taphonomic and biological analyses of the bones, according to researchers, provide information about the mutilation and preparation of these body parts as well as the individuals to whom they originally belonged.

The custom of severing an enemy’s right hand appears to have been brought to Egypt by the Hyksos, according to researchers, even though the hands cannot be directly linked to a particular ethnic or cultural group. According to a relief depicting a mass of hands at King Ahmose’s temple in Abydos, the Egyptians adopted this practice at the latest during his reign.

Hands that were apparently amputated in a trophy-taking practice in ancient Egypt. Photo: Gresky, J. et al 2023 / Nature
Hands that were amputated in a trophy-taking practice in ancient Egypt. Photo: Gresky, J. et al 2023 / Nature

Evidence shows that severed hands were prepared and arranged for presentation in a public ceremony in the pharaoh’s palace. “In this politically structured frame, the severed hands served as symbolic currency for status acquisition, within a system of values celebrating warfare and dominance, as argued by other bioarchaeological studies in geographically diverse contexts.

Cutting off the right hand, in particular, would not only have made counting victims easier, but it would also have served the symbolic purpose of removing an enemy’s strength.

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-32165-8

Related Articles

The Ancestors of Today’s Barbie Dolls “Coptic dolls”

23 September 2023

23 September 2023

For as long as there has been civilization, children have played with dolls. Wooden dolls with bead hair have been...

A 2,000-year-old wooden bridge that once linked England and Wales discovered

31 August 2023

31 August 2023

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Roman and Anglo-Saxon fortifications in the town of Chepstow in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, however,...

Two unique mid-14th-century shipwrecks discovered in Sweden

22 April 2023

22 April 2023

During an archaeological dig in western Sweden this summer, the remains of two medieval merchant vessels known as cogs were...

More than 56400 Cultural Goods Seized in Operation Pandora V

11 May 2021

11 May 2021

Operation Pandora V, aimed at preventing the illegal trade of cultural goods, has been one of the most successful operations...

Exceptional discovery of a fully frescoed chamber tomb dating back to the Republican and Imperial Roman ages

10 October 2023

10 October 2023

Waterworks in Giugliano, a suburb of Campania (Naples), have uncovered an untouched chamber tomb full of frescoes ceilings, and walls...

Excavations of Aççana Mound, the Capital of the Mukish Kingdom, Continue

16 July 2021

16 July 2021

2021 excavations have started at Aççana Höyük, the old city of Alalah, in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district. The ancient city of...

Ancient fish processing factories were discovered in ancient Roman city of Balsa, Portugal

18 July 2022

18 July 2022

In the Roman city of Balsa, one of the most important and symbolic archaeological sites in southern Portugal, archaeologists have...

An imitation Arabic dinar discovered in Norfolk may have been made by Vikings

6 April 2023

6 April 2023

A gold disc struck with a fake inscription imitating an Arabic dinar found near Morston, Norfolk in April 2021 may...

In Moravia, archaeologists discover divine thrones, thousands of artifacts and a new settlement

13 August 2021

13 August 2021

During a four-year dig in the Moravian city (Czech Republic) of Perov, rare gems, mysterious burial places, and divine thrones...

First direct evidence of drug use as part of Bronze Age ritual ceremonies in Europe

6 April 2023

6 April 2023

An analysis of human hair strands recovered from a burial site in Menorca, Spain, reveals that ancient human civilizations used...

Ancient tomb discovered under parking lot greenery in Japan

16 September 2023

16 September 2023

Shrubbery intended to illuminate a corner of a nondescript parking lot in Japan’s Nara prefecture turned out to be hiding...

A Little-Known Civilization in the Americas Built Pyramids as Old as Ancient Egypt

26 June 2022

26 June 2022

Considered the cradle of civilization in the Americas, the Sacred City of Caral-Supe is a 5000-year-old archaeological site, situated on...

Export barred on roundel manuscript gifted to Queen Elizabeth I by Archbishop

12 September 2022

12 September 2022

A rare presentation manuscript that Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker gave to Queen Elizabeth I in 1573 has been sold...

In the new images, Scotland’s biggest Pictish fort is “reconstructed.’

2 November 2021

2 November 2021

Stunning new reconstructions have revealed how Scotland’s largest known Pictish fort may have looked over one thousand years ago. Three-dimensional...

3700 years old Brain and skin remnants discovered at Bronze Age settlement in western Türkiye

5 September 2023

5 September 2023

Archaeologists discovered, well-preserved brain and skin remnants of two individuals dating to the Bronze Age during excavations at Tavşanlı Höyük...