Archaeologists in Germany unearthed a skeleton with a metal prosthetic hand that could be nearly 600 years old.
The archaeologists used carbon dating to estimate that the man was likely between 30 and 50 years old and died between 1450 and 1620, the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation said in a statement.
The prosthetic was made from iron and replaced four missing fingers.
“Even for experienced archaeologists, this was a particularly special find,” the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation said in the statement, adding that the fingers appeared to have been amputated.
The report also said it remains unclear how the man lost his fingers and how he might have used the prosthetic.
“The hollow prosthetic on the left hand replaced four fingers,” Walter Irlinger, the head of the conservation department at the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation, said in the statement.
“The index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers are individually formed out of sheet metal and are immobile. The prosthetic fingers lie slightly curved, parallel to one another. The prosthesis was probably strapped to the stump of the hand.”
A gauze-like material was found inside the prosthetic, which the wearer may have used to cushion the stump of his hand.
Archaeologists found the skeleton in a grave near a church in Freising, close to the Bavarian state capital of Munich in southeast Germany.
The department said archaeologists have previously discovered about 50 similar prosthetics in central Europe from the late Middle Ages — from around 1300 to 1500 — and the early modern period — from around 1500 to 1800.
The department also noted one particularly advanced example of a prosthetic the 16th-century German knight Götz von Berlichingen wore. It said that after Götz lost his right hand to cannon fire during a battle, he began wearing a “movable” and “technically extraordinarily complex” prosthetic in its place.
Freising has been the scene of numerous military battles, including during the Thirty Years’ War of 1618 to 1648, likely leading to increased amputations and demand for prosthetics, the statement continued.
Researchers have previously discovered a prosthetic toe in Egypt thought to be anywhere from 2,600 to 3,400 years old and a prosthetic leg in Italy that dates back to around 300 B.C., the National Library of Medicine said.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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