3600-year-old pits full of giant hands discovered in Egypt

An astonishing discovery took place in the fall of 2011 when a team of archaeologists working in the palace of ancient Avaris, Egypt, found the remains of 16 human hands in four graves in the compound. Two of the pits, located in front of the throne room, contain one hand each. And the other two holes, located outside the palace, contain the remaining 14.

A severed right hand discovered in front of a Hyksos palace at Avaris (modern-day Tell el-Daba). It would have been chopped off and presented to the king (or a subordinate) in exchange for gold. This is the first archaeological evidence of the practice. They were buried about 3,600 years ago, when the palace was being used by King Khayan © Axel Krause

The team of archaeologists who made the discovery determined that all the bones date to about 3,600 years ago, indicating that they all came from the same ceremony. All the hands appear to be abnormally long or even larger than normal. They were classified into four different graves within what scientists believe was the actual Hyksos complex.

The Austrian archaeologist, Manfred Bietak, in charge of the excavation of the ancient city of Avaris, explained to the Egyptian Archeology newspaper that the hands seem to support the stories found in the writings and art of ancient Egypt, this being the first physical evidence of that the soldiers cut off the right hands of their enemies to receive a reward of gold in return.

Besides cutting off the enemy’s hand is a symbolic means of removing the enemy’s force, the meaning of this ceremony would also be supernatural as this was done in a sacred place and temple as part of a ritual.

So far there is no evidence to show what kind of people these hands belonged to. Whether the hands belong to Hyksos or Egyptians cannot yet be determined.

When Bietak was asked to explain why he believed this ritual might have been performed, he said: “You deprive him of his power forever. Our finding is the first and only physical evidence. Each moat represents a different ceremony.”

The two pits each containing a hand were placed directly in front of a throne room. This section of Egypt was once controlled by an occupying force that most historians believe were originally Canaanites, so there may be a connection to the invasion. The other hands, which may have been buried at the same time or at a later date, are found on the outer grounds of the palace.

This image was created about 400 years after the Avaris hands were deposited. It shows the chopped-off hands of enemy soldiers being prepared for Ramses III, a pharaoh of Egypt, after a successful campaign © Karen Green / Flickr

These sacrifices are not surprising in an area that faced a foreign invasion. Egyptians often called on their gods to punish invading armies with plagues, famine, or general misfortune. It is possible that these sacrifices were part of a curse against the invading armies.

There is much more that needs to be investigated, but many signs point to this being some kind of ritual for a god or gods. It is not really known to whom these hands belonged. But the fact that the hands were abnormally large indicates that these people were specially selected, which is more characteristic of a sacrifice than killing an invading army.

The fact that two hands were buried separately may indicate that these offerings were intended to be especially satisfactory to the gods, in addition it could enter the theory of the Hyperborean civilization, where some ancient writings comment that this civilization were extremely large, that they came from Lemuria where that continent was submerged by the waters of the Indian Sea.

This find could reveal the true story about a civilization of enormous dimensions, where the discovery of these giant hands could shed light on ancient stories, that were previously discussed, were only fables or inventions of conspiracy theorists.

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