The 3,500 Year Old Metal Hand Found In Switzerland

Credit: The Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern

What was found in Switzerland near the Lake Biel in October last year proves to be one of the rarest and mysterious Bronze Age findings of all time.

This ‘prosthetic’ hand, which is actually a little less in size than a real human hand, was found by treasure hunters in Switzerland, near the Lake Bien. What is very special about it’s composition is that although most of the item is cast in tin, the cuff is gold, which is unusual for that region.

It has been named the oldest human body part sculpture in Europe.

Historians and archaeologists have suggested that it was probably used in some tribal rituals or even used as a prosthetic limb. This assumption was made based on the finding of a hollow socket on the back of the hand, indicating it was probably casted to be placed on a stick or connected to a larger sculpture. The glue in this area has also been radiocarbon dated, proving that it dates back to around 1,500 BC, 3,500 years ago.

“The dagger was found and given to the authorities along with a dagger and rib bone”

Lake Biel in the Province of Bern, Switzerland, where the discovery was made

The explorers had found the hand using metal detectors. Research officials were shocked at the discovery, not knowing for sure whether it was authentic or not. They had “never seen anything like it”. The researchers were persuaded to return to the spot where the finding had occurred, and they spent about seven weeks excavating the area and looking for anything new. 

Where were they working, exactly?

It turns out that the metal hand, rib bone and knife were found at a ruined grave site, near the little village of Preles by Lake Biel. You can even see through to the Alps from there. The team found the bones from a middle-aged man and small pieces of gold similar to the kind used to make the foil of the metal hand. Furthermore, they found a broken finger from the sculpture. This confirmed the belief that the hand was buried with its male owner.

“We know many graves from the Bronze Age, but never found anything like this,” Stefan Hochuli, head of Archaeology in the Province of Zug, had remarked.

“The discovery reminds us that we still do not know everything about the past. It provides a look into an ancient society – one that is a lot more complex than we think.”

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