This 3,500-Year-Old Bronze Hand Is Unlike Anything Archaeologists Have Ever Found

A mysterious Bronze Hand discovered in Switzerland believed to be at least 3,500 years old, is hailed as the oldest metal object ever found in Europe.

The mysterious artifact was most likely once part of a scepter–a symbolic ornamental staff or wand held in the hand by a ruling monarch as an item of royal or imperial insignia.

The artifact was most likely used in ritual purposes, suggest experts.

Researchers found the artifact as well as a collection of other ancient objects including an intricately carved dagger and a human rib.

Image: Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern/Philippe Joner.
Image: Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern/Philippe Joner.

The object, which was discovered in 2017 near Lake Biel in the western canton (province) of Bern, is now hailed as the oldest artifact made of metal ever discovered in Europe.

“We had never seen anything like it,” says Andrea Schaer, head of the Ancient History and Roman Archeology Department at the Bern Archaeological Service. “We weren’t sure if it was authentic or not – or even what it was.”

To obtain the age of the artifact, researchers carbon dated the organic ‘glue’ that was used to attach a layer of gold foil onto the scepter’s wrist. Results suggest the object dates back to the middle Bronze age, or around 1400 and 1500 BC.

The object was discovered by treasure hunters exploring the area near Lake Biel using metal detectors. After finding the mystery object, they decided to contact the authorities and turn in what they had found.

The authorities eventually decided that it would be a good idea to search the area for more artifacts, and after spending several weeks excavating the area, archeologists found a badly-damaged grave, sitting on a plateau just above Lake Kiel.

“There’s a stunning view over the plateau to the Alps,” Schaer says.

“It is a fascinating place.”

Archeologists successfully excavated the remains of what they believe was a middle-aged man, as well as a long pin made and a spiral made of bronze, and gold foil fragments matching those discovered on the mystery hand.

Furthermore, experts also unearthed the fragments of one of the sculpture’s broken fingers, which means that the hand was most likely buried in the grave originally.

As noted by National Geographic, such metal objects in Bronze Age burials are extremely rare. Even more, it is extremely interesting that gold is almost never found in Bronze Age burials in Switzerland.

As far as Swiss archaeologists who are familiar with the find can tell, such a sculpture is unique in Europe, and perhaps beyond. “The fact that we know of thousands of Bronze Age graves and have never found anything like this shows it’s pretty special,” says Stefan Hochuli, head of the Department of Monument Preservation and Archaeology in the nearby Swiss canton of Zug.

Featured Image Credit: Archaeological Service of the Canton of Berne/Philippe Joner

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