Archaeologists Have Never Seen Anything Similar: A Mysterious 3,500-Year-Old Bronze Hand

Archaeologists in Switzerland discovered a 3,500-year-old bronze hand with a gold cuff around the wrist buried within an ancient grave: a truly perplexing, yet perhaps significant, discovery.

Nothing like this has ever been discovered in this region of Europe, so the researchers are unsure what they are up against. It appears to be a power sign, but it’s unclear whether it was originally part of a massive sculpture or if it’s the top decoration of a staff.

The Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern is currently conducting a full scientific investigation of the strange object, and all questions will be resolved within a few months, according to the service.

Preliminary carbon dating indicated that the hand was made between 1,500 and 1,400 BCE, during Europe’s Middle Bronze Age. According to the date, it is possibly the world’s earliest bronze artifact depicting a section of the human body. If it is a sculpture, it could be the oldest bronze sculpture in Europe.

“There has never been a comparable sculpture dating from the Bronze Age in Central Europe, to the knowledge of Swiss, German, and French specialists,” the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern said in a press release.

“As a result, it is a one-of-a-kind and extraordinary object.”

The so-called “hand of Prêles” was discovered in the fall of 2017 near Lake Biel in the western province of Bern, alongside a bronze dagger blade and a human rib. Then, in the summer of 2018, archaeologists excavating on the site unearthed the skeletal remains of an adult man, which looked to be buried above an older stone structure. His tomb also held a bronze brooch, a bronze hair decoration, and gold plate remains, which were possibly previously part of the bronze hand.

The researchers think that by determining the name of this mysterious individual, they would be able to comprehend the significance of the strange bronze hand.

“He must have been a high-ranking character,” the Canton of Bern’s Archaeological Service noted.

“It is too early to tell whether the hand was fashioned in the Three-Lakes region or in another nation.” We don’t know what it means or what purpose it serves. Its gold decoration suggests that it is a symbol of authority, a distinguishing feature of the social elite, or possibly a deity.”

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