The ceremony of the cut hands

The ceremony of the cut hands is an ancient ritual practiced as a form of justice in some cultures. It involves cutting a person’s palm as punishment for a crime or offense, usually resulting in lasting physical disability. The tradition is still observed by some cultures today and has been used as an effective form of justice for hundreds of years.

These are a dozen right hands. They were found in three wells in an ancient Egyptian palace. It was a Semitic people who ruled ancient Egypt in the 15th century. And there they practiced the ceremony of the cut hands.

The stacked skeletons were part of a ritual of ‘trophy taking’ towards foreign invaders. The findings are part of the then dynasty that inhabited the northeast of the African country. It happened during the period 1640 – 1530 B.C. in Avaris (Tell el-Daba). An osteological analysis was carried out. This way it was known how the hands were extracted from the people and to which ethnic group they belonged.

The ceremony of the severed hands was practiced in an ancient Egyptian temple.
The ceremony of severed hands was practiced in an ancient Egyptian temple.

Fingers and bones

There is a history of inscriptions and reliefs on Egyptian tombs and temples. They show mutilated or amputated hands between the 16th and 11th centuries B.C. However, archaeologists have never before found and analyzed real amputated hands.

“The right hands belonged to at least 12 adults, 11 men and possibly one woman. It is unclear whether the hands were taken from dead or living persons.” Other incomplete hands and loose fingers would indicate a total of up to 18 hands.

The hands were placed on the ground with fingers spread open and on their palmar sides. When the hands were discovered in the pits, they were still “soft and pliable”. These body parts were buried before the onset of rigor mortis or shortly after it had passed. The ‘stiffness of the muscles’ may begin a few hours after death.

Other skeletal remains were also found.
Other skeletal remains were also found.

Punishment or trophy

What does this mean? That they were dismembered during or shortly before the ceremony. And subsequently they would have been placed in the pit.

Despite all the evidence, one question still remains to be answered. It is not known whether the mutilation was a form of punishment or a symbol of a trophy for military victories. But they were placed in a place very visible to the public. It would be an indication of how widespread the ceremony of severed hands was. The research has been published in Scientific Reports.

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