Archaeologists in Germany have discovered an ancient skeleton complete with a metal prosthetic hand to replace the four missing fingers.
The Bavarian State Archaeological Office stated that archaeologists used carbon dating to estimate that this man died sometime between 1450 and 1620, and was between 30 and 50 years old. This means that the lifespan of the prosthetic hand could be approximately 600 years. What makes this discovery even more amazing is that the fingers of the man’s left hand were amputated, and the remains of the hand were surrounded by a hollow shell of iron and other metals. Archaeologists said this indicates the advanced medical condition of the time.
Walter Erlinger, head of the historical preservation department in Bavaria, explains that the hollow prosthetic hand added four fingers to the left hand. “These fingers (index, middle, ring, and little fingers) were individually made of metal plates and could not move. They were placed slightly bent parallel to each other. The prosthesis was likely attached to the trunk with straps. A type of prosthesis was also found. Of the cloth bandages on the prosthetic hand, indicating that it was used to protect the torso.
50 similar prostheses were found
The remains were discovered in a grave near a church in the Bavarian town of Freising, about 40 kilometers north of Munich, during utility work. Interestingly, Freising has been the scene of several battles in the past, most notably during the Middle Ages and the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648. These conflicts may have led to more amputations and thus increased demand for prosthetic limbs.
The discovery in Freising is not an isolated event. About 50 similar prosthetics from the same era have been found in Central Europe. These prosthetics range from simple immobile models, such as those at Freising, to more complex, movable prosthetic hands, such as those worn after 1530 by the famous knight Götz von Berlichingen.
In Egypt, archaeologists previously found an older artificial wooden toe worn by a priest’s daughter. Remarkably, this prosthesis was not only effective for walking, but also looked aesthetically natural.
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