A medieval Italian warrior went through life with a knife attached to his hand in place of his amputated arm, a remarkable skeleton reveals.
Archaeologists found the medieval man’s bones – which date to the 6th to 8th century AD – buried alongside a headless horse, several greyhounds and hundreds of other skeletons.
The warrior was probably between 40 and 50 years old when he died and had his hand removed by a blunt instrument.
The ends of the bone showed signs of biomechanical pressure, suggesting the man had used the weapon he was buried with as a prosthesis.
A medieval Italian warrior went through life with a knife attached to his hand in place of his amputated arm (pictured), a remarkable skeleton reveals
Researchers led by archaeologist Ileana Micarelli of Sapienza University in Rome studied the strange appendage found on a skeleton buried in a Longobard necropolis in north Italy.
Several clues on the body suggest he used the knife in lieu of a hand for a number of years.
The man’s teeth showed extreme wear, particularly on the right hand side of his mouth, writes Science Alert.
This suggests he was probably using them to tighten the straps that kept his prosthesis in place.
They were so worn down he had opened the pulp cavity which had caused a bacterial infection.
On his shoulder he had also developed a C-shaped ridge of bone.
This could have been from holding the shoulder in an extended position for long periods of time as he tightened the prosthesis with his mouth.
The skeleton had its right arm bent at the elbow, with his arm laid across his torso with the knife blade aligned with his amputated wrist.
Nearby was a D-shaped buckle and organic material that was probably leather and may have been used to attach the weapon.
The man’s teeth also showed extreme wear, particularly on the right hand side of his mouth. This suggests he was probably using his teeth to tighten the straps that kept his prosthesis in place
Pictured is the forearm of the unidentified warrior; the anterior view (A) the ulna (B) and on the radius (C). The man was probably between 40 and 50 years old when he died and had his hand removed by a blunt instrument
Researchers led by archaeologist Ileana Micarelli of Sapienza University in Rome studied this strange appendage found on a skeleton buried in a Longobard necropolis in north Italy
‘Among the 164 tombs excavated, the skeleton of an older male shows a well-healed amputated right forearm’, researchers wrote in their paper, published in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences.
‘The orientation of the forearm fracture suggests an angled cut by a single blow.
‘All of the archaeological evidence supports a scenario specific to war injury’, researchers wrote.
Alternatively, he could have had his arm chopped off as a result of medical intervention or judicial punishment.
One possibility is that the limb was broken due to an accidental fall, resulting in an unhealed fracture.
‘Still, given the warrior-specific culture of the Longobard people, a loss due to fighting is also possible’, researchers wrote.
Longobard people were members of a Germanic tribe who ruled Italy from 568 to 774AD.
Pictured is the humerus which shows considerable bone loss, typical of someone using a prosthesis. The orientation of the forearm fracture suggests an angled cut by a single blow
Pictured is the location of the Longobard cemetery, near Verona, north-eastern Italy. The S-shaped brooches from the site (pictured) provided a time depth for the burials (late 6th century AD). The red line represents the ancient Roman way known as Via Postumia. The light grey zone in the excavation map represents the burial area, and the circle in red is where the body was found
On his shoulder he had also developed a C-shaped ridge of bone
Their stronghold was at a place now known as Lombardy, which is how they got their name.
Although they occasionally fought with neighbouring tribes they seem to have largely pursued a settled, pastoral existence.
‘This Longobard male shows a remarkable survival after a forelimb amputation during pre-antibiotic era’, researchers wrote in the paper.
‘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.
‘The survival of this Longobard male testifies to community care, family compassion and a high value given to human life.’
WHO WAS JAMES HANGER AND WHAT WAS THE ‘HANGER LIMB’?
James Hanger became the first amputee of the Civil War less than two days after enlisting on June 3 1861.
A cannonball tore through his leg early on in the Battle of Philippi, resulting in him undergoing a life-saving amputation by Dr James D. Robinson.
He said: ‘In the twinkling of an eye, life’s fondest hopes seemed dead. I was the prey of despair. What could the world hold for a maimed, crippled man!’
James Hanger with his prosthetic in 1902
After being kept as a prisoner of war until August, Mr Hanger returned to his home in Churchill, Virginia, where he locked himself away, making his family believe he was suffering from severe depression.
Mr Hanger was, in fact, working on a prosthetic solution to his lost leg.
Made from barrel staves, he first wore the ‘Hanger Limb’ in November 1861 as he walked down steps at his home.
That same year, Mr Hanger was granted a US patent for his prosthetic innovation and was commissioned to develop artificial limbs for veterans.
He said: ‘Today I am thankful for what seemed then to me nothing but a blunder of fate, but which was to prove instead a great opportunity.’
By the time of his death in June 1919, the J.E. Hanger Company had branches in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, London and Paris.
Rather than wood, plastics and materials such as carbon fibre are used in prosthetic limbs today, which have made them stronger and lighter.
Silicon and PVC also make artificial arms and legs more life like.