Treasure hunters in Switzerland have unearthed a hand-some artifact: a 3,500-year-old bronze hand outfitted with a gold cuff, Swiss archaeologists announced last week. The slightly smaller-than-life hand, crafted during the Bronze Age, is the oldest metal sculpture of a human body part in Europe, the archaeologists said. An ancient artisan placed a hollow socket at the bottom of the hand, a clue that the body part was once mounted on another object, such as a statue or a scepter, the archaeologists said. Perhaps it was even used as a prosthetic or during rituals, Andrea Schaer, head of the Ancient History and Roman Archeology Department at the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern, told National Geographic.
Treasure hunters armed with metal detectors made the handy discovery near Lake Biel in the Swiss canton (province) of Bern in October of 2017. The next day, the discoverers gave the hand, along with a bronze dagger and rib bone found with it, to the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern. “We had never seen anything like it,” Schaer told National Geographic. “We weren’t sure if it was authentic or not — or even what it was.”
The scientists said they plan to study the chemical makeup of the hand to figure out if it was made in the region or in a distant land. The finding is truly one-of-a-kind, as there aren’t any other known metal sculptures like this in Central Europe dating to the Bronze Age, the archaeologists added. The hand will be on display through Oct. 14 at the New Biel Museum (Neues Museum Biel). The hand’s purpose, however, may remain a mystery. “Finds like this remind us how many gaps there still are in our knowledge about the past,” Stefan Hochuli, the head of the Department of Monument Preservation and Archaeology in the nearby Swiss canton of Zug, told National Geographic. “It gives us a glimpse into the spiritual world of this society — and it’s a lot more complex than we often think.”
Originally published on Live Science.