Cache Of Severed Hands Discovered In Ancient Egyptian Palace

ancient EgyptianArchaeologists digging at the ancient Egyptian site of Tell-el-Daba have made a grisly discovery – sixteen severed hands.

They were all right hands, and all large enough that they were probably from men, leading investigators to think they were trophies from a battle. Ancient Egyptian records mention the practice of collecting enemy hands to trade in for gold, but this is the first material evidence.

Like many sites in the country, Tell-el-Daba was inhabited for many centuries. Its high point, however, was actually a low point for the rest of Egypt. Around 1610 B.C., archaeologists believe it became the capital for the Hyksos, a little-understood Eastern people who conquered much of northern Egypt.

Known as Avaris, the town grew and a large palace was built. It was in the palace precinct that the team found the severed hands. According to the team’s press release, 14 were deposited in a pit in an outer courtyard, and two more in two pits in an outbuilding. One can imagine Hyksos warriors coming back from a successful battle against the Egyptians and showing off the hands to their ruler to claim their reward. The Good Old Days were pretty brutal.

The location didn’t stay in the invaders’ hands for long. It was reconquered by the Egyptian pharaoh Ahmose around the year 1530 B.C.

Previously unknown Egyptian pharaoh discovered

Karnak, Egyptian pharaoh

Egyptologists have made a stunning discovery at the famous temple of Luxor: an inscription naming a previously unknown Egyptian pharaoh.

A French team restoring a temple of Amon Ra found hieroglyphs bearing the name “Nekht In Ra.” The inscription dates to the 17th dynasty, a relatively little-known dynasty from a murky period in Egyptian history.

The mysterious dynasty was the last of the Second Intermediate Period, a time when northern Egypt was ruled by Semitic invaders called the Hyksos and the rest of Egypt had fragmented into various factions. The 17th dynasty dated from around 1585 to 1550 BC and had their capital at Thebes, next to Luxor. Most of the dates of its rulers are not known for certain and in many cases it’s not even known how long they ruled or who was related to whom. Thus the discovery of a “new” pharaoh, while important, doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

It’s unclear just how Nekht In Ra fits into the king list of the ten previously known 17th dynasty pharaohs. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has called for further excavation at the discovery site to find more pieces to the puzzle.

While the 17th dynasty is obscure, it was hugely important to Egyptian history because the last two pharaohs waged war on the Hyksos and eventually defeated them, although both pharaohs appear to have died in battle. The 18th dynasty marked the beginning of the New Kingdom, a flowering of Egyptian culture and power that lasted five centuries.

Several interesting items survive from the 17th dynasty and are now on display. Check out the gallery for a sample.

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Photo of entrance into the Precinct of Amon-Re courtesy Wikimedia Commons.