A new study in the journal Scientific Reports concludes that 12 severed hands discovered in 2011 at Tell el-Dab’a (the site of the ancient Hyksos capital of Avaris) constitute the first bioarchaeological evidence of the gruesome “trophy taking” practice of amputating the right hands of defeated enemies. Ancient reliefs and inscriptions from Egypt describe a ceremony in which soldiers would present the severed right hands of enemies to Pharaoh in order to be rewarded. The hands from Tell el-Dab’a were discovered buried, palms facing down, in several pits within the courtyard of a Hyksos palace that may have been in use from ca. 1640 to 1530 BC. Examination of the hands revealed that they were from 11 adult males and one female, that they were likely buried within 24 to 48 hours after death, and that the tendons and ligaments held the bones together. The authors of the study conclude that the discovery supports the reality of the ancient Egyptian “gold of honor” ceremony where severed hands would be offered to the pharaoh. The practice of presenting severed body parts to the king for reward is referred to in 1 Samuel 18:27: “David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife” (ESV).
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