London: Egyptians warriors had brutal ways to prove their heroism after winning battles. They would chop off hands of their enemies and present them to their rulers.
In a discovery, which experts believe is the earliest and only physical evidence of this practise, archaeologists have found 16 large severed right hands while excavating Hyksos palace in the Egyptian city of Avaris.
The hands had been buried in four pits in an area thought to have been a throne room 3,600 years ago.
The soldiers used to present the cut-off right hands of enemies to their rulers in exchange for gold, experts said.
"Most of the hands are quite large and some of them are very large," project and field director Manfred Bietak was quoted as saying by the science news website 'LiveScience'.
Cutting off the right hand, specifically, not only would have made counting victims easier, it would have served the symbolic purpose of taking away an enemy's strength. "You deprive him of his power eternally," Bietak said.
Two of the pits kept in the throne room had one hand each. While the other two pits, constructed at a slightly later time in an outer space of the palace, contain the 14 remaining hands. All the hands found in the Nile Delta northeast of Cairo are right hands.
"Our evidence is the earliest evidence and the only physical evidence at all. Each pit represents a ceremony," Bietak said.
Researchers are unsure about who started this tradition as no records of the practise have been found in the Hyksos' likely homeland of northern Canaan, so could have been an Egyptian tradition they took inspiration from or otherwise.
The Narmer Palette, an object dating to the time of the unification of ancient Egypt about 5,000 years ago, shows decapitated prisoners and a pharaoh about to smash the head of a kneeling man.
The archaeological expedition at Tell el-Daba is a joint project of the Austrian Archaeological Institute's Cairo branch and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
First Published: Saturday, August 11, 2012, 17:18