In ancient Egypt, severed hands were the spoils of war


The new analysis “raises intriguing questions about the origins of traditions showing dominance over enemies not only in Egypt, but throughout the ancient world,” said Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo who was not involved in the project.

The ancient Egyptians were honored for their achievements in art, architecture, and technology. But their brutal tradition of mutilating criminals and adversaries predates the Hyksos by more than a millennium. Perjurers were sometimes chastised by cutting off their ears and noses; The rebels, by hanging corpses from the ribs to death. The Narmer Palette, a ceremonial relief dating from the time of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt some 5,000 years ago, shows the beheadings and mutilations of what appear to be rival chieftains.

On one side of the panel, King Narmer holds a scepter aloft in his right hand while dragging a kneeling captive with his hair. “The striking idea would have been a public display of King Narmer’s power over his enemy, smashing the skull to bloody bits,” said Dr. Cooney.

On the other side, the king inspects rows of bound and decapitated corpses with their heads between their legs and their castrated penises atop their heads. “Chopping off organs was a curse on the ancient Egyptians, who wanted their bodies whole for the existence of the afterlife,” said Dr. Cooney.

An inscription in the mortuary temple of Ramesses III, in the city of Hebu, shows the pharaoh standing on a balcony after a victory not far from heaps of enemies cut down (12,312, according to one translation of Zealous Army Scribes) and hands (24,625). ). In the Temple of Amun at Karnak, a historical account of a battle from the thirteenth century BC includes details of captives sent back to Pharaoh Merneptah with “donkeys before them, laden with uncircumcised rods from the land of Libya, with hands [every] A foreign land was with them, as fish in baskets.” If the number of those killed is to be believed, the Egyptians combined the penises of 6,359 uncircumcised enemy slain and the hands of 2,362 circumcised enemies. “The stench must have been terrible, hence the comment,” Dr. Cooney said. Fish in baskets.


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