Sixteen severed right hands have been unearthed by Archaeologists in Egypt. The grisly find was made while excavating a palace in the ancient city of Avaris. The hands were buried in four pits throughout the city. Two of these pits are located directly in front of an ancient throne, with each pit containing one severed right hand. The other fourteen hands were scattered within the other two pits, and are believed to have been buried later than the two at the throne. The throne is believed to have belonged to a Hyksos ruler named Seuserenre Khyan. These people were believed to have come from Canaan.
“Our evidence is the earliest evidence and the only physical evidence at all. Each pit represents a ceremony” explains Manfred Bietak, the archaeologist and Egyptologist who led the dig. The hands are estimated to be about 3,600 years old. Severing the right hand was a practice referenced in Egyptian writing (known as hieroglyphics)and art. It is believed to have been undertaken by both Hyksos and Egyptians. By removing the right hand of your enemy, it not only made counting victims easier, but it served the symbolic purpose of taking away the enemies strength. “You deprive him of power eternally,” says Bietak. It is believed that the hands could also be traded for gold.
Owen Jarus from LiveScience reported on the history of the symbolic practice:
Cutting off the right hand of an enemy was a practice undertaken by both the Hyksos and the Egyptians.
One account is written on the tomb wall of Ahmose, son of Ibana, an Egyptian fighting in a campaign against the Hyksos. Written about 80 years later than the time the 16 hands were buried, the inscription reads in part:
“Then I fought hand to hand. I brought away a hand. It was reported to the royal herald.” For his efforts, the writer was given “the gold of valor” (translation by James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Volume II, 1905). Later, in a campaign against the Nubians, to the south, Ahmose took three hands and was given “gold in double measure,” the inscription suggests.