It might come as a surprise to some, but people back in the Bronze Age did use prosthetic hands. And this information comes from a 2017 discovery of a prosthetic hand near Lake Biel in Switzerland. The prosthetic hand was accompanied by a dagger and also a rib bone that the treasure hunters donated to the Bern Archaeological Survey.
Recent analysis reports that this sculpture could quite possibly be the oldest in Europe. The weight of this hand is approximately a pound and is adorned by a gold cuff at the wrist. Inside the hand is an attachment that would enable the user to mount the structure. The tests were done on this- radio-carbon dating on the glue- posit this sculpture to around 1500-1400 BCE.
Andrea Schaer mentioned to National Geographic that the prosthetic hand was a total anomaly to their existing findings. So much, that they didn’t even know where it could have been used, its authenticity and if it could be used at all.
Schaer further reports that the prosthetic hand might be an insignia of the man wielding it, and was appropriately buried with him after he died. But it was also analyzed that the insignia might have been too delicate to be worn by the user. It was more probable that the person put it on a scepter and waved it around, rather than using it as apparel.
It was natural that this would lead to some excitement in the archaeological circles. Schaer and her team went to the site again and started excavating for 7 weeks. they found the grave of a possibly middle-aged man. He was buried along with a gold foil, a bronze pin, and a hair tie.
This is quite a unique discovery for archaeologists all around because there haven’t been many retrieved sculptures from the Bronze Age. To add to that, usual sculptures from these burials were never really made of gold, especially in Bronze Age Switzerland. So, this was a rare occasion.
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Stephen Hochuli, working for the Department of Monument Preservation and Archaeology, believes that this is a pretty special event due to the rarity of items recovered. For there have been several graves such as this scattered around but never has there been such a discovery made. Hochuli believes that the discovery of a prosthetic hand reflects the spiritual world of the society we live in.
It is, after all, a complex discovery that gives a grandness to human evolution.
Images Credit: Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern, Philippe Joner