What historical find would change history?

Unique find in Europe: 3,500 year old metal hand

In the grave, the researchers discovered the skeleton of a middle-aged man, a large bronze needle, a bronze spiral that presumably held the hair together, and remnants of gold leaf that match the one on the bronze hand. In addition, they find one of the broken fingers of the hand in the man's grave - a good indication that the hand was originally buried with the man.

Metal objects are a very rare find in graves from the Bronze Age. Gold in particular is almost never found in Swiss graves from this period. As far as the Swiss archaeologists who are familiar with the find can say, such a sculpture is a unique find in Europe, perhaps even beyond. "The fact that we know thousands of graves from the Bronze Age, but have never found anything like it, shows how special it is," says Stefan Hochuli, the head of the Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology in the Canton of Zug.

The hand will be exhibited in Biel over the coming month. Meanwhile the archaeologists are working on the study of their find and are puzzling over the original purpose of the hand. “It must have been attached to something, but we don't know what,” says Schaer. The recess in the sculpture suggests that it perhaps adorned a statue, placed it on a staff and used it like a scepter or was worn as a prosthesis in the course of a ritual.

The researchers may never find an answer to this question. Since the treasure hunters did not document their find before removing it from the grave, it is impossible to say where the hand was originally placed in relation to the body. "Such finds show us how incomplete our knowledge of the past still is," says Hochuli. "They give us an insight into the spiritual world of this society - and it is much more complex than we often think."

The article was originally published in English on NationalGeographic.com.