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Knife-For-A-Hand Prosthesis Found With 1,400-Year-Old Skeleton


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In the horror-camp classic Evil Dead II, the main character cuts off his own hand and later attaches a chainsaw in its place before he is magically transported to Middle Age Europe.

A case report by Italian archaeologists now implies that around 1,400 years ago, a real man pulled a (tenuously) similar stunt.


As described in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences, a skeleton unearthed from the famous Veneto-region Longobard cemetery bears evidence that the individual not only survived for years after amputation of his right forearm, he also regularly used a strapped-on, knife-tipped prosthesis.

No, really.

Note: This video is not historically accurate.

“This Longobard male shows a remarkable survival after a forelimb amputation during [the] pre-antibiotic era,” the authors wrote. “Not only did he adjust very well to his condition, he did so with the use of a culturally-derived device, along with considerable community support. Most likely, he had a prosthesis that was used to protect the stump.”


First discovered in the 1970s, the Povegliano Veronese necropolis served as a burial ground for the Longobard culture that thrived in the region between the 6th and 8th centuries. A warrior-based society, the Longobards settled in northern Italy in approximately 568 AD, after migrating from modern-day Germany.

Though the one-handed man’s remains had been studied previously, the team led by antiquities researcher Ileana Micarelli conducted the most extensive analysis to date of both the bones and the goods found alongside them.

The man is estimated to have been aged 40 to 50 years at the time of death, and the arm appears to have been amputated by blunt force trauma under one of three circumstances: a purposeful medical procedure to remove an unhealable injury, lopped off in battle, or as a “judicial punishment” (it was the good old ‘limb for a limb’ days, after all).

Regardless of which of these scenarios is correct, examination of the bone stump indicates that the cut was made purposefully and the resulting wound was carefully attended to. Well-healed callouses on the tips of both the radius and ulna support the hypothesis that something, such as a prosthetic, was regularly bound to the area.


According to the paper, the man’s remains also showed uneven wear on the right teeth, bone loss of the right humerus, and an unusual orientation of his right shoulder; physical changes that, taken together, could have stemmed from habitual motions of pulling on a prosthetic device and tightening its strap(s) with his teeth.

The supposition that the device in question was of the stabby variety comes from the arrangement of the iron blade, bronze D-shaped buckle, and leather-like material – perhaps the prosthetic’s bindings – near the man’s stump. Given the items' locations, the authors speculate the man was buried with his knife-hand prosthetic on, and it later moved to its current position after his flesh decomposed.

A photo and drawing of the remains with the buckle and knife in the position they were discovered. Micarelli et al./Journal of Anthropological Sciences, 2018

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