German researchers analysing 12 severed hands that were discovered at Avaris (Tell el-Dab’a) in 2011 have published their findings, suggesting that the amputations were part of a ritual, rather than a punishment for crime.
The hands, dating to about 1500 BC, were found in shallow pits dug outside the walls of the Hyksos palace, but within sight of the throne room. The hands were cut cleanly and amputated after death, rather than being hacked from a living prisoner, and then placed carefully in the pits. At least 11 of the hands were from males aged between 14 and 21; the gender of the 12th hand could not be determined. This is the first physical evidence of a practice that has been depicted on temple walls, such as at Medinet Habu.
Image Credit: M Bietak/ÖAI