A creepy find by egyptologists of a pit full of ancient severed hands confirms a theory about a disturbing ancient Egyptian practice. The find connects fleetingly with the Bible, appearing in what some believe to be the throne room of Biblical Joseph.
Egyptologists discovered 16 severed hands in the grounds surrounding buried in four pits in an ancient palace in Avaris, Egypt. The scientists estimated the hands had been separated from their rightful owners approximately 3,600 years ago. All were right hands and remarkably large.
The find was indeed gruesome but not entirely surprising for the egyptologists, as it confirmed their belief that soldiers would cut off the hands of defeated enemies and present them to noblemen in return for a gold bounty. Hieroglyphics have been discovered depicting this practice.
“You deprive him of his power eternally,” head archaeologist Austrian Manfred Bietak explained of the practice in an interview with Archaeology News Network . “Our evidence is the earliest evidence and the only physical evidence at all. Each pit represents a ceremony.”
“Most of the hands are quite large and some of them are very large,” Bietak told LiveScience.
Two of the pits, each containing one hand, are in what researchers believe is a throne room of a palace at Avaris.
According to Bietak, the palace is believed to have belonged to King Khayan of the Hyksos, a foreign semitic-speaking nation that invaded Egypt in 1650 BCE and ruled for a short time. It is believed the Hyksos originated in Canaan or Syria.
There are other theories explaining the origin of the Hyksos and the palace discovered at Avaris. In his documentary Patterns of Evidence, Tim Mahoney suggested that the palace may have belonged to Biblical Joseph and that Avaris was the home of the Hebrews during their sojourn in Egypt.
Mahoney bases his claim on several factors, including the discovery on the grounds of the palace of 12 graves for distinguished personages, one marked by a large statue depicting a yellow-skinned royal leader.
Though the discovery of the severed hands is disturbing, the practice is actually mentioned in the Bible.
David gave orders to the young men, who killed them; they cut off their hands and feet and hung them up by the pool in Chevron. And they took the head of Ish-boshet and buried it in the grave of Avner at Chevron. II Samuel 4:12
David Rohl, an egyptologist who worked with Mahoney on Patterns of Evidence, did not believe the pits containing the hands concerned his theory of the palace in Avaris belonging to Joseph.
“These were found in the level associated with the immediate post Hyksos expulsion, which would probably mean that these were the severed ands of either Hyksos soldiers or mercenaries in the Egyptian army who had perhaps revolted,” Rohl told Breaking Israel News, emphasizing that he did not have enough data to offer more than an educated guess.
“If I were to bet on it, I would say that they are most probably part of the ‘hand count’ of Ahmose’s victory at Sharuhen to determine how many of the enemy were killed in the battle. So, having awarded Egyptian soldiers for the number of individual kills they had made, and paid for in gold, they would bury the hands in a mass grave.”
“This is too late to have anything to do with the Israelites in Egypt, in my opinion,” Rohl said.