Archaeologists have found a bronze hand in Switzerland which is believed to be 3,500 years old and may have once been part of a sceptre.
The unusual artefact, which includes a gold cuff, was found alongside a collection of ancient objects including a dagger and a human rib.
Researchers made the discovery in Switzerland last year and have now presented their findings, saying the hand was the oldest metal body part that had ever been found in Europe.
After carbon-dating the trove they excavated the site and discovered the grave of a Bronze Age man, National Geographic reported.
The bronze hand, which includes a gold cuff, was found alongside a collection of ancient objects including a dagger and a human rib by archaeologists in Switzerland
What could the bronze hand be?
Experts say they cannot be certain of the meaning or function of the hand.
They say was is extended by a hollow form that suggests that it was originally mounted on another object.
It could have been part of a sceptre, or perhaps a statue.
Archaeologists say there has ‘never been a comparable sculpture’ found in central Europe.
A scientific study over the coming months is set to address the questions.
Although the grave had been damaged the researchers were able to find a stone structure underneath and other items including a bronze hair ornament and gold plating from the hand.
Experts believe the person buried at the site near Bern must have been a ‘high-ranking’ individual.
The hand, which weighs more than a pound, was cast in bronze with vegetable glue used to fix the thin gold plate.
Carbon dating on the glue showed the bronze hand was made between 1500 and 1400 BC, more than three millennia ago.
Treasure hunters had initially stumbled upon the hoard using metal detectors before archaeologists returned to the site to examine their findings.
A statement from Bern authorities said: ‘It is still too early to determine whether the hand was made in the Three-Lakes region or in a more distant country.
‘We do not know either the meaning and the function attributed to it. Its gold ornament suggests that it is an emblem of power, a distinctive sign of the social elite, even of a deity.
The hand is extended by a hollow form that suggests that it was originally mounted on another object: it was perhaps part of a sceptre or a statue.’
Heritage official Stefan Hochuli said: ‘The fact that we know of thousands of Bronze Age graves and have never found anything like this shows it’s pretty special.
‘Finds like this remind us how many gaps there still are in our knowledge about the past.’
Researchers made the discovery in Switzerland last year and have now presented their findings, saying the hand (pictured) was the oldest metal body part that ever found in Europe
The older stone building that was under the grave discovered in Switzerland. Experts believe the man buried in it must have been a ‘high-ranking’ Bronze Age man