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Severed hands an ancient horror

Severed hands an ancient horror

Sat August 11, 2012 11:07am

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have made a gruesome discovery fit for a horror thriller: 16 severed hands buried in and around an ancient Egyptian palace.

But don't blame the Pharaohs, or their mummies.

A team of archaeologists unearthed the 3600 year-old bones of 16 severed hands from four pits within what is believed to be a royal Hyksos compound.

They are all right hands. And they are all large.

Austrian archaeologist Manfred Bietak, who is leading the excavations in the ancient city of Avaris, told the journal Egyptian Archaeology that the severed hands appeared to be the first evidence to support tales in ancient Egyptian writings and art of soldiers cutting off right hands and claiming a bounty of gold.

Cutting off the hand was a symbolic means of removing an enemy's strength

"You deprive him of his power eternally," Bietak said.

"Our evidence is the earliest evidence and the only physical evidence at all. Each pit represents a ceremony."

Two of the pits - containing one hand each - are positioned in front of a throne room built in a part of Egypt that was once controlled by an invading people believed to have come from Canaan.

The remainder, probably buried at a later date, are in the palace's outer grounds.

The archaeological expedition at Tell el-Daba is being conducted by the Austrian Archaeological Institute and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

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