3,600-year-old pits full of giant hands discovered in Egypt

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 all hands found are very 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.

In two of the pits, 14 right hands were discovered, while two other pits were found holding one right hand each. It’s not known whom these hands belonged to; they could have been from Egyptians or people in the Levant.

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, is 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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